Millions spend their days toiling in anonymity working for nothing more than a salary, a few perks and the promise of time off when the job finally becomes too much to take.
Others work in joyfully productive workplaces fuelled by personal relationships. Business results come, but not because they’re mandated. Rather, they are the natural byproduct of workers who aim to deliver for the managers who care about their needs and aspirations.
These are the organizations led by People Artists — and they are growing in number. My friend and co-author David Zinger and I highlight them in our new book, “People Artists: Drawing Out the Best In Others At Work.” Here’s what you need to know in order to join their ranks.
What It Means to Be a People Artist
This isn’t our first study of People Artistry. Our first book, “People Artistry at Work: The Ennoblement Imperative,” gave managers a handful of principles for increasing engagement. Too few have accepted the challenge. On April 9, global performance-management consulting company Gallup declared that employee engagement levels in the U.S. had decreased to 31.7 per cent. The reality is that since 2012, engagement rates have not surpassed 38 per cent. In the U.S. and around the world the need for People Artists has never been greater than it is now.
So, what is a People Artist? Simply defined, People Artists draw out the best in themselves and others to create a workplace canvas of excellence for the benefit of all.
These are the workers who aren’t just in the job for themselves. They recognize that work is personal, so they work to connect on a deeper level with coworkers, subordinates and even superiors. To them, relationships are currency.
Yet they’re also careful. Neither prying nor pushy, People Artists come to work with an open heart, attentive ears, clear eyes, careful lips and giving hands. They stay positive. They listen, watch and learn. And, most of all, they recognize good work when they see it.
How to Become a People Artist If You Aren’t One Already
Please don’t think of People Artistry as a management “system.” Instead, think of it as an approach that requires a mind shift that most never make.
In its study of 60,000 executives, the Management Research Group found that only 0.77 per cent were perceived as being strong when delivering on both results and relationships — only 462 People Artists out of a pool of tens of thousands. Becoming a People Artist is a commitment to joining the elite by engaging conversationally in these five areas.
- Heart. If your brain is where you think, your heart is where you feel. Allow yourself to care as you engage with your fellow workers. Express empathy. Be on their side and they’ll be on yours.
- Ears. Learning to listen is tough when you’re wired to talk. But that’s exactly what you must do. People Artists listen and take note of their peers’ concerns and aspirations and then work actively to support their expressed needs.
- Eyes. Observe your co-workers. Take notice of what they do and how they do it. You might learn something important that improves your own work, a lesson you can share with others. Conversely, you may see a colleague who has a problem you’ve already solved. Lending a hand at this sensitive time could forge a relationship that lasts a lifetime while also contributing to business results.
- Lips. Encouragement is the fuel of engagement. Speak up when you see good work. Let others know about it. You needn’t be nosy, but there’s also no need to be bashful. Be vocal in celebrating those who deserve it.
- Hands. Finally, give. Give yourself to the work and to your co-workers. Like an athlete on the field, give your best when at the job so that co-workers know you’re invested. Similarly, if you happen to be a manager, give rewards when the situation calls for it. A gift card, a sponsored lunch or some other tangible expression of gratitude can go a long way — especially if you’ve already taken the time to care, listen, observe and recognize those around you.
The Next Generation: Managing For a Better Future
Is all this really necessary? Do you really need to forge deep and meaningful relationships to be a great business leader? History says no, but history also ignores the casualties created by perform-at-any-cost work environments. Our aim is to help raise up a new generation of People Artists who will break the cycle — because it should have been broken long ago.
As McGill University management professor and well-known business thinker Henry Mintzberg says, “You don’t learn to manage by completing an MBA.”