People.

By Guest Blogger, Ronald Wastyn, Ph.D., Professor of Organizational Leadership, St. Ambrose University

Linda asked me to write a blog post, likely to shut me up around the house.

For the past 20 years, I have taught leadership courses at St. Ambrose University. This journey required me to embrace a new field of study and apply my background in communication to this field. When I look at organizations that thrive in our fast-paced world, they share some common values that I want to reflect upon in this post.

  1.  People. A former student of mine who worked for the University of Iowa once commented that organizations should change the name of their Human Resource Departments to People Departments. He thought that people did not constitute a resource akin to capital, but rather served as the heart and soul of the organization. I could not agree more. Our organizations, whether for profit or nonprofit, are made up of people. These people make or break your success. So, treat people not as a resource but as the core of what you do.  People are not a commodity so treat them well.
     

  2. Other-Oriented. When reflecting on what distinguishes the field of communication from other fields, I find that good communicators privilege the audience, making communication an other-oriented activity. This means that we must constantly think about respecting the views of other people when we say things. We must remember, especially in these tribal times, that ALL people come to describe their own experiences and their own perspective. Organizations that embrace being other-oriented attempt to truly understand their audiences, whether their employees, clients, vendors, or other stakeholders.
     

  3. Fun. Organizations that thrive create cultures of fun. Read a little about Zappos or Southwest Airlines and you find that people actually enjoy working for these organizations. Both put their people first and use an other-oriented approach to business. Do your employees like coming to work?  If not, why not?  Would you perform better in a climate where you felt like a cog in a machine or in a climate where you feel respected for your views and contributions?

So, take a moment and re-dedicate yourself to valuing people, taking an other-oriented approach, and creating a fun place to work. And tell us how you did that.


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Ron Wastyn, Ph.D., earned his doctorate in rhetoric and communication from the University of Pittsburgh. He has served on the faculty at St. Ambrose University for 21 years and currently directs and teaches in their Master of Organizational Leadership Program.