Most of what we humans do have to do with other humans. With people. And still, for some odd reason, most of our activities and the guidelines we follow are about procedures, technology, which raw materials to use and what to do with the resulting products – or things.
Dealing with people is, of course, happening all the time, but very often it is done as some kind of additional activity that has not been learned and should not be monitored or improved, as long as we just manage to produce those things.
Now I said a word! Manage. A manager can “manage to produce” or “manage people”. He or she can manage products, projects, programs, portfolios, change – and perhaps in a lean way. When it comes to people, the noun “manager” has a somewhat ambiguous meaning: either it is an administrator (who in particular is not leading) or it is a high ranking person, leader or not.
And here was another word! A leader is someone who in particular is doing something with people. Of course, you could lead the horse to the river etc., but in business life mostly people will be led by the leader, as individuals and teams. But can you also lead products, projects etc.? No. You can call yourself a project leader – and maybe even believe that it is somehow more humanist than being a project manager – but what you can do is to lead people and to manage the project.
What else can you do with people? Yes, that is true: you can coach them, and teach them. And you can learn from them. Coaching and learning are tremendously important – both can be formalized and become execution of procedures, but both can be more free as well. In both cases leading to people feeling well – because they know themselves, their tasks, something else and something more, and perhaps even what to do with this knowledge.
Ooops! Another word! Knowledge is something that has to do with people. Maybe that horse from before also has some knowledge, but in business… – and people can share this knowledge. Not necessarily by teaching, but simply by letting it be available to other people. This can be part of a learning culture, perhaps even a learning organization. And this is a must for a company to develop, to improve.