Work is personal for the person doing the work

For counselors and admissions professionals attending the NACAC conference in Louisville next week, I’ll be presenting the following session on Thursday and would love to say hello in person.

Engaging and Delighting your Staff
 Thursday, Sep 26 3:15 p.m. – 4:15 p.m.
Location: Ballroom C (Career Hub)

Since founding Collegewise over 20 years ago, the single thing I’m most proud of is the people who call our company their professional home. They’re smart, interesting, and exceptionally talented. They find so many ways to add value here beyond just doing their jobs (which they do very well). They’re constantly reaching out to help colleagues, initiating new projects, taking responsibility and deflecting credit. Each day, they leave work a little better than they found it.

I’ve had people from schools and companies observe our remarkable Collegewise colleagues and ask me: “How do you motivate them?” The real answer is that we don’t motivate them. We hire people who were already motivated before they arrived here.

But we have consciously made an important choice—we view and treat each employee as an individual person. Not a number. Not an asset. Not a resource to be deployed in a way that best helps us. But a unique individual with talents that, when paired with the right opportunity, can help them discover their potential.

We don’t get it right all the time. We make mistakes. But I think our remarkable assembling of people here is proof that we’re doing something right for them and for us. And in this session, I’d like to share a little bit about how we do that.

My session takes place right after the opening speaker on Thursday. I hope I’ll see you there.

Lesson #7 of my final 31 posts: Work is personal for the person doing the work.

“It’s not personal—it’s just business.”

I don’t buy it. If there’s a human being involved, it’s personal.

If someone is laid off due to budget cuts, it’s the person, not a business, who has to go look for another job. If you abruptly cancel a project a team has been working on for months, it’s those people, not the business, who feel the casual disregard of all the work that will never come to fruition. If you treat an employee like one replaceable part in a much larger business machine, expect that they’ll treat the job as a replaceable function to be tossed aside as soon as a better offer comes long.

Of course it’s personal. It’s always personal for the person doing the work. Instead of running away from that truth, why not run towards it? Treat people like the individual human beings they are, with unique strengths, talents, goals, and challenges. Help them learn and grow. Show them that their opinions matter. Demonstrate your care for them as a person, not as someone just filling a role.

When you make work more personal, you get the best from the person doing the work. And that’s good for both the person and the business.