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  • Writer's pictureRich Haglund

"Mission first, people always."

“Mission first, people always.”

Mark Horstman, from Manager Tools, recently shared this quote in response to a question he’s frequently asked: “Are we supposed to prize Results and Retention, or Results and Relationships?” Horstman explained, “Results and Retention . . . are managerial responsibilities because organizations must put results first, and managers must put the organization first.” And,

Results and Relationships are our two core recommendations for individual professional success. These are not proven “principles” but rather our guidance based on distilling all the data we have about success and professionalism in organizational life.

In Thor: Ragnarok, as Thor despairs that his homeworld, Asgard, is being destroyed by Thor’s sister (who has less than noble intentions), King Odin says,

Asgard isn’t a place. It’s a people.

In the Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln said, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

I realize that simultaneously connecting a business consultant, a superhero movie, and Abraham Lincoln is a stretch. So, feel free to stop reading! But, at least for me, their statements were enlightening and challenging.

Whether we’re talking about a for-profit or non-profit business, a government agency, church congregation, or a family, it’s always about people. Neither the mission of an organization nor the aspirational values of a nation have any place or legitimacy without people. An organization’s mission may change, a nation’s circumstances may be dramatically altered. But, the way the people that make up those entities treat each other always matters. And, at least in my mind, how people treat each other determines whether or not the groups they belong to should be deemed successful or honorable.

Lincoln continued:

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. . . It is for us the living, . . . to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Thankfully, we’re not under attack from Thor’s sister, Hela, “goddess of pointy things.”

But, the way people are treated is a matter of life and death. And the work of relationships never ends. But, the recent murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery have brought us to a hinge point, a time when we all have to ask ourselves if we’re ready to move forward, and, if so, in what direction.

So, here’s an invitation to you and me this weekend:

  • Consider how well you’re doing in your workplace at supporting and developing your fellow team members,

  • Think about the nation you want America to be, and

  • Choose one thing you can do to make where you work and where you live (your block, your ‘hood, your city) a place where all people are treated with equal respect.

  • Tell someone else what you’ve decided to do so they can support and encourage you.

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