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Has Your Business and Leadership Lost its Edge?

Consider Implementing a People-First Strategy

Article By: Steve Rudolph Coaching


Maria, the CEO of a small company, was frustrated with the lackluster performance of her people. She mostly had positive, team-oriented, dedicated employees, but performance outputs had plateaued, and the culture seemed to have lost its edge.


Maria was losing sleep knowing that recession headwinds would continue to be a drag on the business. Her management team acknowledged the declining productivity trend lines but were quick to blame the economy, labor shortages and other external forces. She wanted accountability and fresh ideas, not excuses.


Does this feel familiar? Your business was running on all cylinders, exceeding performance expectations, with high levels of team collaboration, only to have the wheels start falling off? The performance adage – what got you here might not get you there – might be at play here.


Maria’s very hands-on, pacesetter leadership style drove results for many years but was disempowering to her team, sapping initiative, true collaboration, and innovation.


Maria needed to flex her leadership style and build a people-first strategy - engaging, growing, and empowering her people to co-own the solutions for recharging the business. The following quote by Toyota’s leadership captures the spirit of this strategic initiative:

“We don’t build cars. We grow people who happen to build cars.”


Here are five performance areas that Maria might consider developing to reenergize and refocus her people to accelerate business growth.

  1. Implement a Participative Leadership and Management Style. Maria doesn’t need to let go of control; she needs to learn to share it. Shifting ownership and accountability leverages human’s need for autonomy, a top driver of employee motivation.

  2. Engage Front-Line Team Members in Finding and Solving Problems. This is the heartbeat of a continuous improvement culture. Embedding this process deep into the culture requires Maria and her management team to embrace a none of us is as smart as all of us, mindset.

  3. Create a High Recognition Culture. A blind spot of a hard driving leadership style, like Maria’s, is failing to stop and celebrate the team’s successes. Consider the business ROI - “65% of respondents said they would work harder if they felt like their contributions were noticed by management.” (Forbes) Leaders who fail to recognize their people leave money on the table. "Sixty percent of Gen Z want multiple check-ins from their manager during the week; of those, 40% want the interaction with their boss to be daily or several times each day." Inc.

  4. Establish a Feedback Rich Environment. The above quote should direct leaders and managers to increase the frequency and substance of conversations with their team members. Maria’s blind spot is her one-on-one conversations are often one-way and feel very transactional. Improving people engagement and business performance requires managers to shift from boss to coach.

  5. Replace (or augment) the annual performance review with QTPs (quarterly touch points). This new performance management structure would redirect Maria and her managers efforts to focus on developing and retaining their people, who in turn, will help energize and grow the business.


There’s no silver bullet for turning business performance around. Yes, you need a sound go-to-market strategy, compelling goals, and working capital, but your people’s energy and commitment is the fuel for growth.


By learning to flex her leadership style, and implementing a people-first strategy, Maria will build an adaptive culture capable of weathering marketplace uncertainties, and she may sleep better.


Leaders, generate more meaningful conversations with your people by asking better questions! Ready to learn how? Grab your free tool:


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