Are you still thinking about a new year’s resolution? 

Are you striving to make a step in a better direction as a team leader?

Here’s a suggestion: For 2019, resolve to think twice before you refer to people as “resources.”

What do I mean by that?

It means that if we want to be better serving leaders, leaders who legitimately care about the people on their team, we are not well served by language that lumps people into the same category as a pile of steel or a fleet of trucks.

Think about some of the terms we use, like Human Resources or Resource loaded schedules. Using language like this steers our thinking away from respecting people and tends to make us treat them like muscular mass or intellectual inventory to do a job. Granted, we have a job to get done, and we need a team to do it. But, when our language reinforces the notion that the people’s value to us is only as much as they are a resource, it steers us away from being serving leaders and, quite frankly, tilts us into being served leaders.

Now, for those of you thinking that Paul has gone down the hippy dippy kumbaya trail, let me say that this concept of getting rid of the term ‘resources’ when referring to people has been told to me in the past by a now 2-Star Admiral and just recently by a US Navy Captain, and both of them highly technical engineering types. 

In his talks, Patrick Lencioni goes so far as talking about leaders needing to love their team. That makes sense when we take the romantic perspective out of that word love and keep it to its definition of ‘caring for someone without expecting anything in return.’

Am I saying that we need to throw out trusty project management tools such as resource loaded or resource leveled schedules?  No, not really.

Am I saying that we need to run down the hall and take down the sign that says Human Resources and change it to what companies like Southwest Airlines does and call it People? Maybe.

Basically, I am just challenging each of us is to remember that not only what we think affects what we say, but also that what we say affects the way we think. If we are always saying “resources” to mean Fred, Wilma, Barney, and Betty, well, we may see those folks as faceless sources of manhours. I personally don’t want to treat people I care for that way. (I can only imagine how ugly it’d be if I referred to my mother and father as ‘parenting resources’ or my bride as… whoa…not even going there!)

Being a serving leader is established on the basis that we have a sincere respect and care for each person whom we lead. It calls us to step away from being the heroic leader, from being the served leader, to being one who raises each person up rather than keeping them down. 

As you step into 2019, take a look at your team, take a look at your project roster, a look at your organizational chart.  Are you seeing those names as ‘resources’ or as people? Are you seeing each person as someone with unique talents and experience that you can build into strengths or just as yet another person from whom you can squeeze out eight hours of their day?

ON an ending note, as a serving leader, you also need to serve yourself. So, when you wake up in the morning, are you telling yourself that you’re just a resource? Are you using phrases to yourself such as ‘another day, another dollar’?  

You’ve been given great gifts…that’s probably why you’re the team leader.  You’ve also been given great responsibility to serve those whom you lead. 

My resolution for the year? To remember that each of you are part of our team, and to share thoughts and perspectives in this blog that continually reinforce our respect for you and our hopes that you will likewise share your thoughts with us so that we can know you better and to help us be better able to serve you.

Here’s to an enthusiastic and joy-filled 2019 !

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