When Your Process Replaces Your People


When people go to work, they shouldn’t have to leave their hearts at home. – Betty Bender

John Maxwell shares one of my favorite stories about a turkey chatting with a bull. “I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree,” the turkey sighs, “but I haven’t got the energy.”

“Well,” replied the bull, “why don’t you nibble on some of my droppings? They’re packed with nutrients.”

The turkey pecked at a lump of dung and found that it actually gave him enough strength to reach the lowest branch on the tree. The next day, after eating some more dung, he reached the second branch. Finally after a fourth night, there he was proudly perched at the top of the tree. But he was promptly spotted by a hunter, who shot him down out of the tree.

The moral of the story: BS might get you to the top, but it won’t keep you there.

While the story is humorous the ramifications of it in the way it plays out in the workplace is not. Unfortunately, many employees feel that they are getting BS from their employers. Let me be clear: strong employee engagement is essential to your success in business. And yes, all businesses want a healthy bottom line and rightfully so. But what happens if your business places its processes over its people? Here are three consequences you will potentially face unless you change.

Fractured relationships

It’s been said that people are your most appreciable asset. But when your bottom line becomes your most coveted resource then you have issues. The most essential ingredient to the success of your organization is not having the best business model, location, marketing, or product. It’s your people. They are the life-blood of your organization and the face of your brand. If you only see your people as a means to an end (your bottom line) then you are using your people.

If relationships with your people are fractured the rhythm of your business will suffer. Don’t expect your people to buy-in to your product until you have bought-in to your people. Until you get this right nothing else will be.

Divided loyalties

Here’s the rub: Your people want to be a part of an organization and service that they believe in and have a connection with. They want to be a part of something that is meaningful and contribute in a way that makes a difference. But when their good intentions brush up against a ‘process over people’ mentality it creates division.

Now your people have divided loyalties between liking the service they render and the people they serve and those who are calling the shots. If divided loyalties are widespread among your people then your processes have failed you.

Revolving doors

It’s been said that people don’t quit organizations they quit bosses (leaders). If the execution of your leadership is grounded in policies and procedures over relationships and teamwork then expect high turnover. Simply put; rules over relationship breeds rebellion. Eventually there comes a tipping point when your best and brightest will vote with their feet and find the door.

Let me be clear – boundaries are important and there is a place for policies. But policies and procedures should complement the work of your people and their productivity, not stand in the way of it.

Your organizational culture is tied to your employee engagement. Such fallout as articulated here due to poor employee engagement does not have to define your organization. But whether it does or not is on you as the leader.

Your path forward begins by recognizing that your people are your most valuable and appreciable asset. To that end you must recognize relationships and communication for what is it is – the heartbeat of your organization. Be committed to serving your people, building relationships, and developing leaders. At the end of the day, had you rather be known as the organization with great policies or great people?

What do you say?


© 2015 Doug Dickerson



About dougdickerson

I am Certified Leadership Trainer, author, columnist, and speaker. Husband to Alicia, father to Katelyn and Kara, and "Pop" to terrific grandson Tyson. I am an avid photographer, love the outdoors, and like to travel. I'm passionate about sharing my leadership insights and helping people reach their full potential.
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3 Responses to When Your Process Replaces Your People

  1. avanginhoven says:

    That is basis of leadership, “employees first”, customers second, stockholders third. It is what I have named “Happy circle in business.” Great post Doug.


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