The Hard Stuff and the Tough (Soft) Stuff

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“I don’t have time for all this namby-pamby soft stuff!” the sales director of an engineering firm told me the other day, “I have to find a way of improving our bloody results in time for the next Board Meeting.”

There’s a common myth in business that there is the ‘hard’ stuff: the numbers, the products, sales, key performance indicators, profit and shareholder value…

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… and then there is the ‘soft’ stuff: people, talent, skills, motivation, feelings, relationships, creativity and the like.

People in HR and OL & D roles often bemoan the fact that Operational folk don’t focus more on the soft stuff – because they’re very clear that this is what would make the biggest positive difference…

The truth is, of course, that these are not separate things – and the more enlightened know this, whatever their job title happens to be.  It’s just a distinction – probably not a very helpful one – that has become commonplace in the world of work.

So, here are just a few examples of where my clients have transformed business results (yes, the ‘hard’ stuff!) – not by becoming all lovey-dovey and switching all their attention and energy to the people and well-being agenda – but by understanding how the human mind really works (their own included!):

We’re talking here about the formula that I’ve often mentioned before: 

p = P – I

Performance equals Potential minus Interference.  And ‘Inteference’ – although it takes many forms – is always a product of a lack of Clarity in the human mind.

John, who is in charge of new product innovation in his company, who has seen new product development cycle time come down from 18 months to 3 months – because he now understands what was getting in the way of fast and creative collaboration on new ideas, and has taken away this ‘interference’.

Rachel, who is the CEO of a luxury food retailer, who has tripled sales in the last six months – because she now understands the ‘interference’ that was the poor relationships and mistrust between her sales teams, manufacturing and distribution partners.  And she has cleared it away.

Daniel, a highly driven Customer Service Manager, who has moved his customer satisfaction ratings from 60% to 92% through starting to truly listen to the customer feedback and using the best CRM systems from companies like Salesforce.  In this case, the ‘interference’ was his own state of mind – so stressed, overwhelmed, and non-present that he simply couldn’t hear what customers were asking for (or what his team was trying to share with him either!). 

Katie, a senior leader in a large hospital, who reduced patient waiting times (and therefore patient deaths), through understanding that the ‘interference’ wasn’t that the process was poor – it was that people weren’t following the process – because they didn’t understand it, didn’t like it, and didn’t feel valued or listened to.  

I could go on and on with example after example.  But you get my drift.

Every single issue, problem or challenge in your business is, at its core, coming from ‘interference’ of some kind.  When people are working and living from a place of clarity, creativity and collaboration – there is no part of your business that can’t be transformed, no problem that can’t be solved, no challenge that cannot be overcome. 

So…. there is no ‘hard’ stuff or ‘soft’ stuff.  There is only performance (results), our unlimited potential as creative, thriving people, and the interference that gets in the way.

There are still some places left on my one-day “Taking Care of Business” Conference on 23 October.  This will be a day where real leaders tell their real stories about how they have transformed business results through a very simple understanding of how our minds really work.  Find out more here

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