People management – What you need to know.

It was the end of a long march through the marshy and insect infested fields of 18th Century America on the way to a battle ground that would prove significant.  And after open field fighting that lasted hours it was clear that even freshly arrived reinforcements would be insufficient to ensure victory.

The enemy army had aligned with native warriors known for a deliberately evasive style of warfare and this made the battle all the more difficult. Lt. Col. George Washington (at the time) would go on to lose one of his earliest battles to a better organised opposition.

A lesson to be learnt

The argument could be made that he was inexperienced and out of his league but would also wonder if the course of events would have been different had he better soldiers, or was a better leader at the time. The soldiers, severely lacking in motivation from low pay, malnutrition and poor gear could barely maintain concentration, let alone fight well enough to win. It is plausible that the soldiers could have lasted longer in battle had they better equipment.

There is much to be said in favour of the willingness to dare, explore and innovate in today’s world of business. It is only advisable to reserve a seat for experience when it comes to leading a group, an organisation or even one’s self.

In another vein, Napoleon and his Grande Armee had conquered much of Europe in his quest for world domination and moved to conquer the people of Russia. With a standing army of 600, 000 soldiers he advanced with the expectation of a win. However, he was up against a people that were prepared to burn their lands, houses farms and assets in the hope of depriving the advancing army of much needed resources for survival.

What is required to make a change?

This willingness to lose in part in the short run was somewhat innovative considering the circumstances and difficult for the French to understand. As it turned out, the French campaign to Russia was a disaster and would mark the beginning of the end of Napoleon’s military career.

Throughout history, the thoughts, decisions and actions of people have always had an impact on the outcome of things. So, here again as in other times where the survival of a people was at stake, the ability to undergo difficulty for the common purpose, made the difference.

Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.

 Margaret Mead

Fast forward a few hundred years, the world witnessed mass uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East that would change the balance of power across nations. In unprecedented fashion, mass protests toppled governments that had been accused of corruption, human rights violations and a thorough mismanagement of their respective economies.

These Governments had been established for years and had pretty much done whatever they liked until people got tired of being pushed around. Of course, it is debated whether the uprising was engineered, or was the will of the people and if it accomplished its objectives, considering the casualties involved.

With inflation as high as 30.5% poverty levels and perceptions on corruption were abysmally low and the people had decided to act against oppression.  Connecting this to the world of business, it should be said that the best levels of performance cannot be expected where talent is not given the enabling environment.

You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

Abraham Lincoln

People felt that the leadership of the day was culpable in allegations of unfair treatment, graft, nepotism and the like. And through the communities created by social media, an entire region was brought to a standstill even as the world looked on in shock, yes, this was the mass uprisings that coalesced in Tahir square.

Even today, Twitter and Facebook still refer to this event as part of their contribution to the perpetuation democracy. But then, what is the best technology without the people to use them? What is communication without the people actually communicating? That there is the centrality of people management to the world we live remains key should be taken more seriously.


The banking and entertainment industries have something to say.

Leaving the world of democracy, we come to financial services where Barings bank had been in existence for 233 years, and had weathered market storm after storm. Still through the efforts of one trader, all the years of successful investment went up in smoke.

It is clear that people have a certain potential for either creativity or destruction that should be critically looked into. It is also key to define and effectively manage the direction of potential as early as possible – where there’s still a chance of exerting the right influences.

Ever heard of the key to property value? Well I have – location, location, location. The thing is, property is only as valuable as people think and agree it to be. If no one decides to buy, it is reasonable to conclude that that property stays in the market – a legacy from the days of trade by barter, where value was ascribed to an item based on what both parties agreed it to be.

The entertainment industry bases its value on the fact that people agree it to be so and this is irrespective of constant criticism give negative assessments for peoples. Again, cities, states and nations are formed largely because people agree to come together and remain so.

People (or talent) management make a significant difference in whether companies grow or not, whether initiatives see the light of day, and in the end, whether nations fail or not.

He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a stroll.

John Maxwell

The best kind of intelligence is to understand what your opponent will think tomorrow, not find out what he thought yesterday.

Olufemi Awoyemi

People are key to the realisation of vision.

It should also be understood that the bigger the vision of a leader the more the influence on people is required. When we say we have organisations, the full import is that we lead organisations of people that create products or services that people find valuable.

It is interesting to find that organisations tend to execute product development by starting from their passion and then hope that the consumer will bite. It might be better to start product development from what the customer needs and then move on from there.

I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.

Wayne Gretzky.

Except of course you’re in the ranks of the ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky or Steve jobs in that there is clear knowledge as to what the next move should be, it may be best to look first at developing a product or service based on what the customer will find useful. The very idea of innovation depends on the uniqueness of people – their backgrounds, current circumstances and aspirations.

Wrapping up – People have value, so invest.

Looking over the major historical events, one thing is clear: People can be depended on to innovate as is necessary, create new cultures and make enduring changes to the very way life is lived. These are the kinds of people that ensure organisations never fail but rather produce great products and services.

Therefore, if these kinds of behaviours are not encouraged in organisations, it might be a good time to start asking the right questions. Have investments been made in building environments that encourage idea development?

Can the difficult questions be given audience long enough for healthy disagreements ensue? Is dissent allowed anywhere in the decision making landscape because, there comes a time when the dissenting voice is right.

Consciously deciding to invest in people is a right decision.

Here’s a summary of what we’ve looked at;

  1. A lesson to be learnt
  2. What is required to make a change?
  3. The banking and entertainment industries have something to say.
  4. People are key to the realisation of a vision.
  5. Wrapping up – People have value, so invest.

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