The Value of Putting People First

The Value of Putting People First

Taking the time to learn about what makes your staff tick is time well spent. I have always had greater success when I really get to know the folks I work with. Now this doesn’t mean diving into their personal life to the point of it being uncomfortable, but find out what is important to them.

Find out if they value trips to the coast, taco Tuesdays and what they want out of their job. What do they like and dislike about the work. Demonstrating interest in your team as human beings and not some piece of machinery will show you care about them and that they are valued. 

I worked with a wonderful team several years back and the part I loved the most was the size. It was a small group - there were just four of us total. Two of the employees were young parents and what I found after getting to know them was they wanted flexibility with their schedules most of all. It made perfect sense. They had young kids which meant lots of doctor appointments, recitals and school conferences.

They were both wonderful at their jobs but the office culture at the time looked down on flexible schedules. I knew how important it was to them both so I went to the mat with Human Resources and battled it out. Eventually I was able to get flexible schedules for them both.

The new structure worked better than expected and they were extremely happy to have flexibility in their schedules. They never missed a deadline, communication was in fact better than it was before and our little team was praised for accomplishing so much with so few people.

Show them that you care and they will move mountains for the team.

Make yourself available and approachable

We’re all busy with meetings, deadlines and life in general. It is easy to half-heartedly participate in conversations but don’t do it! Make sure you are approachable and really listen to what your team is saying.  

I meet with my team once a week with a structured agenda which is a good way to keep things moving north and address any roadblocks your team may be encountering. However, meeting once a week in a group setting does not necessarily allow employees to speak freely and really express what’s on their mind. Be sure your door is open and encourage them to stop by anytime. Giving members of your team a voice, individually and as a collective group, will boost morale, creativity and business growth.

I once had a skillful technical writer on my team who very much liked her job but I could tell she wanted something more. She would provide her thoughts, suggestions and concerns but the undercurrent was something else. Had I not been an active listener, asking probing questions, I would have missed it.

She was interested in trying her skills with another business unit but was a little unsure on how to broach the subject with me. Her worry was that she would be letting the team down.

I got to work immediately on the transfer, and back filled her open position. She spent ten months with the other group and eventually rejoined our team. It was a valuable experience for her and our team benefited as she brought back a fresh perspective and a deeper understanding of the business.

Take the time to listen to your employees’ thoughts, suggestions, and comments. Dig deep, ask questions and read between the lines. Prove that you’re willing to trust their input and also act upon it. The team will be stronger and it will pay dividends in the end.

It’s simple - people first

We all want to meet our numbers, push the business forward and move up. Just remember to put people first - embrace what your heart tells you two or three seconds before your business sense kicks in and trust your instinct.

When you put people first, when you put your team first, you unleash the full power of trust and creativity, and you build highly beneficial working relationships.

Houtman | Domenighini
Human Performance
Twitter Email

Jill Houtman and Danny Domenighini are partners at Coffee and Pints, an unconventional professional development blog. The partnership was formed in response to their personal ... Click for full bio

NBA Player Carl Landry Demonstrates the Value of Persistence in Life and Work

NBA Player Carl Landry Demonstrates the Value of Persistence in Life and Work

Written by: Jon Sabes

When you meet Carl Landry, stand-out college basketball player and nine-year NBA player, you imagine that becoming a professional basketball star was a straight forward run for the 6-foot-nine-inch power forward. 

However, when you go deeper into Carl’s background, becoming a NBA professional was less than certain and little came easily to the 33-year-old from Milwaukee:

  • He was cut from his high school team as a freshman and averaged less than ten points a game when he did play as a senior.
  • He started his college career not at Purdue, but a junior college where it was not clear he would play.
  • When he finally got to Purdue, he tore his ACL in his knee his first year and reinjured it the next year.
  • While his family held a party for him the night of the NBA draft, he slept in the Philadelphia airport after missing a flight following a workout for the 76ers.
  • In the NBA playoffs, Carl had a tooth knocked out, but came back in the same game to make a game-winning blocked shot as the Rockets beat the Utah Jazz 94-92.

Landry, who I interviewed on my podcast, Innovating Life with Jon Sabes (, is a remarkable example of the value of “persistence.” In a time where technology creates the image that anything is possible at the touch of a button, persistence is an under-appreciated trait. When I spoke with Carl, I clearly saw someone for whom success has only come through a force of will that made him a NBA player, but it also made him a better player every year he played. That’s the kind of personality that has produced greatness in business as well as sports.

Carl was, in fact, drafted that night he spent in the airport. The Seattle Supersonics chose him as the 31st overall pick and then traded him to the Houston Rockets where he rode the bench for much of the first half of the season. When All-Star teammate Yao Ming was injured, he stepped in and played a key role in the Rockets astonishing 22-game winning streak (the third longest streak in NBA history). And, that season, after sitting on the bench for 33 of the first 36 games, he was named to the All-Rookie second team.

Carl was the first in his family to go to college. “I told myself that this was my ticket out, so I did everything I possibly could to be the best person in school and also on the court,” he said.

His family life in Milwaukee showed him what he didn’t want to do. “Just being honest with you, seeing some my cousins, peers, they went to work for jobs paying six, seven dollars an hour or they didn’t go to work at all and then living off welfare. I didn’t want that.”

When he was first injured, he had to contemplate the end of a career before it even got started. “When you have an ACL tear, it’s over…no more basketball,” he told me. “I said, God, give me health again and I’ll do everything I can to leave it all out on the line and be a successful individual.”

On my podcast, Carl pointed out another interesting lesson he learned in the NBA: Not doing things just to fit in.

“Fitting in was easy,” he said. “Doing everything that everybody else does was easy. If I stood out in some type of way, I’m going to have different results. I’m going to have stand-out results.”

That’s called the “Law of Contrast” and it produces that exact effect of changing the outcomes that everyone else is experiencing.  Carl is smart, he recognized that differences make a difference, and doing whatever it takes is what is required to make real, meaningful differences.

Every off-season for the last 11 years, he has run a camp for kids in Milwaukee where he tells youth his story of hard work and persistence. “I always tell the kids to apply themselves and always be persistent,” he said. “If you dream, apply yourself and be persistent. With hard work, man, the sky’s the limit.”

When Carl says the sky’s the limit he means it.  He is smart to recognize that it’s important to dream big, because if we don’t – we may be selling ourselves short. “You have to dream bigger than your mind could ever imagine,” he said. “I wanted a nice house. I wanted a nice car. I said, and I got all of that. So, what do I do, do I stop now? Maybe I didn’t dream big enough.” That’s a big statement coming from a kid who grew up to be the first in his family to graduate college and go on to be not only a top NBA basketball start, but a good businessman, father and someone who gives back to the community.

I’m convinced that in whatever he takes on as a basketball player or in his post-hoops career, Carl Landry is not going to stop getting better at whatever he does, and in the process of doing so, make the world a better place.

GWG Holdings, Inc.
Investing in Life
Twitter Email

GWG Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq:GWGH) the parent company of GWG Life, is a financial services company committed to transforming the life insurance industry through disruptive and i ... Click for full bio