04 Aug You are how you manage
Recently I read a provocative editorial in the New York Times by Giuliano Hazan, a cooking instructor and author, entitled, “You Are How You Eat”. In it, he draws an intriguing contrast between how Italians view food and the eating rituals they follow versus Americans. I was born and raised in the U.S. but grew up in a strong Italian culture, so I can appreciate both sides of this national divide.
One quote in particular says it all about the difference between American and Italian perceptions of food and eating. “In Italy, cooking and eating are not chores; they are one of life’s gifts that nourish the soul as well as the body”. He goes on to lament the obesity trend here in the States and the diet fads like the current ‘carb craze’ that are tarnishing the image of iconic Italian staples like pasta and crusty bread and driving down their sales in America. Italians eat these things every day, yet their obesity rates are a third of what they are in the U.S.
Hazan insightfully points out the reason for this paradox. “Ultimately, it’s not the carbohydrates – or the next unsuspecting food group that will come under attack – that will make us overweight. It’s our relationship with food and our lifestyle.” In other words, how we eat is just as important – if not more so – than what we eat.
Today, people think weight and health can be assured by eliminating the evil carbohydrate from their diets. In the 1980’s they thought the exact opposite – good health and proper weight would accrue from eliminating all fat and replacing it with ‘healthy’ oat brand and other carbohydrates. But instead of thinning the nation, we fattened it up. Today 30% of America is obese (more than 30 pounds overweight) and sixty-six percent is overweight. Despite the assurances of the late Dr. Atkins’ company and all the others jumping on the high protein bandwagon, no one knows for sure what the long term effects will be of eliminating carbohydrates and replacing them with animal fats and protein.
This lesson from the world of food applies equally to business. Substitute people for food and what you get is a picture of how many companies view and treat talent. The War for Talent mentality that is still prevalent in many organizations is the equivalent of a fad diet. If you try to subsist on only one type of talent, as many companies did during the War for Talent years, you will risk endangering the health of your business. Living on a strict diet of only the so-called best and brightest talent will not ensure long-term competitive success.
In organizations like Enron and Andersen Consulting, this approach did not make up for a lack of balance in their values and behaviors or the unethical and criminal acts that brought these companies to their demise. The hard truth is that balance and lifestyle are keys to a happy and healthy life. We need a balance of carbohydrates, fat and protein to be healthy. We also need to exercise. And we require healthy and fulfilling personal relationships.
This is no secret, but it is damned hard to achieve and maintain, especially for those easily seduced by quick fixes. Running a successful business is no different. The diet (what your company depends on to survive and thrive) and lifestyle (how it manages and operates) must be balanced. An organization needs diverse types of people all united by common goals and values and the pursuit of shared passion. It cannot rely on a steady diet of only one kind of person, no matter how talented.
In a Next Generation Company, the development and management of people is not viewed as some low-level administrative task that is done in good times and cut when business goes south. Talent management is instead seen as the core of the company’s being and an integral part of its culture. NGCo’s believe, “we are how we manage our people”. They consume people’s talents in respectful and balanced ways. They savor and conserve talent and know that the quality of their work and performance depends on treating their people well. Buono appetito!
Tony DiRomualdo is a business researcher, writer, and advisor with Next Generation Consulting. He works at the intersection of people, business strategy, and information technology to help companies create a committed and high performance workforce. Tony can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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