The Biggest Lie in Organizations Today: Productivity = Value

I have a confession that hurts to write: I don’t have much appreciation for people who aren’t useful to me.

When someone works hard and improves their results over time, I’m invested in the relationship. When they aren’t demonstrating the activity I expect, I distance myself from them and consider ways to “fix” the situation.

You might be tempted to minimize this confession by saying that I treat people well and by reminding me that I’m running a business, not a charity — that the company can’t make money unless everyone is doing their part.

And that may all be true. But it’s also a gross oversimplification.

I realize this when I look at my own career. The best metaphor to describe how I’ve approached my career would be a race. It hasn’t been a blatant, well-publicized race but more of a subtle and nagging question in my mind. I’ve identified my hidden competitors — the person in the cubicle next to me, my college peers, my wife, my friends, my same-level colleagues across the business, and on and on — and I’ve asked myself: am I getting ahead or am I falling behind?

My answer has always depended on whether I feel I am more or less productive than the others — how many clients I’ve picked up, friends I’ve gained, problems I’ve solved, money I’ve accumulated.

The biggest lie being perpetuated in organizations today is that people are most valuable when they increase their productivity.

It’s a lie because this race is exhausting. It’s not making me creative or bold or unique. It’s making me busy and judgmental. Where’s the value in that?

Increasing productivity creates short-term utility. Increasing commitment is what creates sustainable value.

And the only way we can get there is to live, work and appreciate others (and ourselves) from a place of intrinsic value rather than productive value. This means that before we look at how much someone did or has, we observe, discuss and appreciate who they are and all that entails — their strengths, uniqueness, brokenness and fears.

Dale Carnegie Training and MSW Research have studied this dynamic and have found that when people feel valued for who they are more than what they do, they will be:

  1. Empowered: Thinking like an owner of “outcomes” versus “tasks” and willing to take risks to accomplish them.
  2. Enthusiastic: Consistently energetic, positive and proactive in working toward goals.
  3. Inspired: Motivated from the soul to be creative and sacrifice for the vision.
  4. Confident: Secure in one’s self, role and ability despite changes in circumstances or performance.


Have you worked with someone, lived with someone or seen someone when they feel those four emotions?

That’s what I want for myself, my team, my clients and my community. That will drive us toward our business objectives, and it will change the world.

So, what will you value in yourself and others? What you do or who you are?



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