Jill, the new CEO stepped into the small meeting room and prepared herself to address the gathering of managers. She felt quite assured and confident. This was the fifth time she would deliver this speech, in almost as many days. This was just one stop on her two week road tour. The new strategic direction that she was informing managers about was already catching people's attention.

She settled herself in, and with a confident smile, greeted the managers as they arrived. These were mostly seasoned managers, but had never heard her speak before. She had done her homework on this group, and felt that this would be an open, candid but friendly meeting...one where the managers and herself could engage in healthy debate.

She started off her speech with her usual opening...'people are our greatest asset'. She paused as usual, to let that statement sink in. Just as she was about to continue, a voice from the back of the room chimed in...'I don't agree with that statement!'

Bill, a twenty five year veteran manager, was already standing, ready it appeared to take on the CEO. Jill was a little startled. Composing herself, she asked Bill if he would like to elaborate. 'I sure do' said Bill. 'People are not assets. An asset is something the company can acquire, own, manipulate, throw away, give away or sell.' He paused to let his statement sink in.

And sink in it did.

Jill thanked Bill for his comments, and then turned to the gathering of managers and said 'You know, I've never thought of it that way, but Bill is absolutley right. I, as an employee, would hate to be used in the same way an asset gets used. So let's talk about that...' They talked it through, and by the end of the meeting, came up with the following insights:

1. People are not assets

2. The RELATIONSHIPS we have with people are our greatest assets

3. We BOTH (company and employee) own those relationships...50/50

4. We both have an interest in sustaining and leveraging those relationships

5. Those relationships extend to suppliers, customers, and other stakeholders, including the community

Jill modified her speech, and continued on her tour. But more than that, Jill modified her way of thinking about and relating to people. On that day, she became a better CEO.


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