Touchy-feely Nonsense Has a lot of Value

Touchy-feely Nonsense Has a lot of Value

A few years ago I was asked to work with a small group of managers. The topic was practical management skills, and we were given four six-hour sessions to cover it. A few in the class had been managers for more than a year, most of them for only a few months.

At the opening of the first meeting I said, “OK, we’re going to be together for four sessions, what do you want to get out of it? What do you want to learn?” A lot of discussion followed, but they certainly knew what they wanted from the class. Here’s what they had me write on the white board:

• How to be more direct/less direct when appropriate
• How people want to be talked to
• To be aware of the positives and negatives of relying on “gut instinct”
• How to motivate our staffs
• How to use our strengths more effectively
• How to prevent our weaknesses from becoming a liability
• How to help other people adjust to our new positions
• How to be more purposed in our speech
• How to deal with it when others disagree with us

When they were done I stepped back and scanned it over. Then I turned to them and said, “You know, if someone were to walk in the room right now and had missed our discussion on all these items, they would probably say ‘What a bunch of touchy-feely nonsense.’ ”Medical Dealer | Slice of Life | Touchy-feely nonsense has a lot of value

But then I added, “Yet, aren’t these things essential to being a good manager?”

Bette Price and George Ritcheske, in their book “True Leaders,” tell us, “Gone are the days when a company’s success could be measured by profits alone. Today, a successful company must balance human values with economic values. Managers who lead with an awareness of this convergence of people and profits seek significance in their own lives as well as financial success. They are true leaders.”

Organizations thrive when they can create and sustain passion-driven teams. Sadly, too many seasoned executives tend to forget that businesses are comprised of people. Some spend so much time going over budgets or profit and loss statements that they lose touch with the humanity that makes it all happen.

Thriving organizations create conditions for people to take responsibility and ownership of their work. They teach good work management practices and they ensure people are taught how to work well with each other. They create an atmosphere in which passion for the work can emerge.

Allow me to emphasize that passion-driven workplaces cannot be manufactured. They can’t be demanded. They can’t be bought. They can’t be faked. The elusive force of passion must emerge. And that only happens when people feel trusted, when they believe in the mission and are encouraged to share ideas. Passion-driven teams also need camaraderie, commitment, common purpose and determined confidence. None of that simply happens on its own. Conditions must be created for it.

One good example of doing this comes from David C. Novak, now the Executive Chairman of YUM! Brands Inc., the company that owns Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell. According to the international directory of business biographies, Novak is characterized as wearing many hats: those of captain, friend, mentor, politician and team player.

When he took over as President and CEO at YUM! Brands in January of 2000, Novak focused on three main goals: correct management problems left over from the company’s previous ownership; increase competitiveness; capitalize on opportunities for multi-branding.

Those goals are strictly business, not interpersonal, but Novak knew that it was people that made up his business. Although he is described as fiercely competitive, Novak’s first goal was getting management working together. He knew teamwork couldn’t be forced, so he made sure the people in his organization were treating people like people. And, the results paid off. He took an atmosphere of distrust and slumping profits and turned it around to thriving teamwork with consistent growth.

Keep in mind that equipping managers and leaders for better teamwork and ownership of their roles often requires a culture change. Three or four years for such change to occur is not uncommon, but it always goes better when those at the top set the example – as Novak did.Medical Dealer | Slice of Life | Touchy-feely nonsense has a lot of value

Also know that any organization can hire great people, but if they’re not working as a team, results can be flat, or worse yet, fall apart. In his book “Emotional Intelligence,” Daniel Goleman tells us that, in large part, a company achieves sustained competitive advantage by engaging its people appropriately.

With these things in mind, I was impressed with the wish list my managerial students created. What they wanted to get out of those training sessions fell right in line with what has been proven to get solid results.

This is not to say that managers shouldn’t learn budgeting, scheduling, time management, interviewing skills, project management and the like. Those skills are definitely important. It’s just that one can’t bring out the passion in a workforce with those skills alone.

The bottom line here is that people skills are not a bunch of touchy-feely nonsense. Hire good people, and in addition to teaching them good technical skills, equip them with good interpersonal skills. And be sure to praise them whenever they use those skills. When organizations create the conditions for camaraderie and commitment, communicate the common purpose, and move forward with determined confidence, people are more likely to feel trusted, believe in the mission and collaborate together with passion for their work.

Dan Bobinski is a certified behavioral analyst, author of the best-selling “Creating Passion-Driven Teams” and president of He travels internationally helping organizations of all shapes and sizes. Reach him at or 208-375-7606. .