business meeting.jpg


With the start of a new year, comes an onslaught of articles about productivity. Their titles may change—How to Boost Your Productivity, or 5 Tips to Be More Productive, or How to Have a Productive Year—but no matter the title, the message is the same: apparently, we all need to DO MORE. 

I admit I've read many of these articles. At times, I've even intentionally searched for them. Over the last few years, however, I've realized that an overemphasis on productivity creates a disproportionate view of business. 

When we focus too heavily on productivity, we reinforce the idea that if we can do more, make more, or sell more, then our business will be more successful. While this may hold true initially, long-term, focusing too much on productivity deemphasizes the most important link in any business: people. When a business focuses more on productivity than people, priorities inevitably shift to the output of the business instead of the business as a whole. 

When a business focuses more on productivity than people, priorities inevitably shift to the output of the business instead of the business as a whole. 
— Stephen Palacino

Let's think beyond the product.

The productivity mindset says that we should make better use of our resources in order to maximize the output. A people-first mindset, however, asks much deeper questions. 

  1. Am I someone people want to do business with?

  2. Am I merely selling a product or meeting a need? 

  3. What is my company known for? 

What do customers need in addition to your product...attention...honesty? Are these tangible assets? No. Are they invaluable? Absolutely. When we add value alongside a good or service outside of the initial product, we're focusing not just on the output, but on the buyer experience. Happy customers are repeat customers. The same focus can be applied internally, as well. Are efficiency goals overshadowing corporate culture? Can supply chain relationships handle an uptick in production? If culture and relationships aren't being valued, then production will eventually falter.

What does this look like in the real world?

Let's say you run a coffee shop. Productivity says, Let's start a marketing campaign to sell more coffee. A people-first mindset, though, causes one to pause and ask a series of questions.

  1. Is my coffee any good? Could it be better?

  2. Why are people buying my coffee? Do they need other items I'm not offering?

  3. When people think about our business, what comes to mind? Is it a pleasant experience?

This requires a mindset shift.

For those who have left the corporate world to begin their own venture, the change in thinking from productivity to people-first can be a transition. Why? Because people-first thinking runs contrary to the bottom line. People-first thinking asks if you're doing your best instead of doing enough, it would rather be honest with clients than gain a sale, and it's more focused on the individual instead of the contract they're signing. This kind of thinking isn't always popular with shareholders. But it is right.

Productivity has a place in any business.  But this word is critical: place. When productivity is not kept in its place as a PORTION of the business—but is instead lauded as the key indicator of success—look out! The strongest indicator of long-term success is not in the profits of a business, but in the people behind the profits. 

Stephen Palacino