I just finished reading the Time Magazine feature on Steve Jobs and his leadership style titled, "What Would Steve Do?" The article reiterated Job's passion for the PRODUCT, more than the PROFIT-- and discussed this point in contrast to the to the profit-focused curriculum norms at business schools, and profit-dominated drive of companies.
Putting today's norms aside, if you could re-write the rules, which would you want to be the first priority of your CEO/management team? And, continuing with the TIME theme, what then should we be teaching our next generation of leaders?
Would you like them to focus on the money they're making?
The customers they are serving?
The product they are creating?
The value their product/service provides to customers?
The impact they are having on our planet?
Or -- let's get really bold now -- would you like them to care about YOU?
Was that last point meant to say, "Care about the people of the company as the TOP priority?" Crazy right? Even Steve Jobs didn't do that.
One of the most exciting experiences I've had recently was getting to know the leadership of a B-2-B company who believes being centric to the people of the business is the way to go. They are positioning their organization to do more of it. I believe they are a benchmark for ....
The Future of Work -- and Workplace Fulfillment.
... a company that is people-owned, people-focused, delivers amazing and technically brilliant services by its people, and where its people create terrific products that add undeniable value to their customers and the employees of those customers.
Who is this company?
EPI-USE. They are a global IT services and software company. You likely don't know the name (they are private, after all) -- but I'm telling you now they are a company which should be written about like Zappos or Netflix is discussed in terms of people- and culture-centric management. I literally wanted to pinch myself when hearing line leaders in the field talk about the culture and what they wanted to build more of (modern, 2.0-type empowerment; voice; family-caring; employee wellness in every way; mentoring; no bureaucracy or foolish HR policies, connections with employee alumni and families). The leader of the Americas business and the global CEO had the same to say and then some, with passion and conviction that this was the way to build a lasting and even more successful company.
On reading this TIME piece on Jobs, and seeing Apple on top of the FORTUNE Most Admired list, I could only think of the old BusinessWeek/Sports Illustrated legend -- you know, the one that says once you're "on the cover," you are likely in the process of jumping the shark. What if that's right? Could a people-centric model have the power to topple a product-centric model? It would certainly tie with what we're seeing elsewhere, ala the rise of social; global empowerment and voice of the people; the transition to services at leading product companies (IBM, HP), relationship-centric marketing, Millennial work styles, and more.
The EPI-USE people "get" the drivers of good work (like respect, recognition, trust, and work aligned to talent and passion), they also get virtual workforces, global work, customer-focus, sustainable business success (they've been profitably growing for 27 years) and -- perhaps most importantly -- what is important to well-being of their people and their families. And they want more of it!
They have prioritized this focus to such a degree that they are looking for an executive to lead the growth of this type of culture and people-centric management programs. They want someone to help them run the company for the 99% of people who are smart, empowered, and care about the customers, and products, and the well-being of their peers, vs. the 1% of crazies that most companies focus on in their HR policies and actions.
If you're interested in that job, read more about it here. And if you are technical talent, put them on your radar. It seems like a dreamy environment -- where the focus is NOT about revenue and profit and wall street -- it is about working with brilliant people who care about you, solving tough problems and delighting your customers with the services you provide and/or the products you build. They do this because they know it drives business success.
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Of course, I love profit and great products, too -- and the full list of areas CEOs should focus on. I also love the idea of executives not being heartless jerks to their people -- and actually seeing that if they lead with connecting with their people, the likelihood they'll get higher levels of customer satisfaction, revenue and profit is much greater. I look forward to seeing more companies like EPI-USE give this "new" model a try.
I'm reminded of that book, "All I Really Needed To Know [to be successful lin life] I Learned in Kindergarten." I don't think money made the top of that list, either.
- Polly Pearson
@PollyPearson on Twitter