When Building Things Made Of People II

Written by Justin Bailey

When designing structures engineers select the proper materials to withstand the elements and the rigors of use.  While in some cases these materials are engineered to allow for movement, the integrity of the structure for the most part depends on its parts retaining their shape and location.  In other words, the success of things made of materials is based upon their ability to remain for the most part unchanged.  In this predictability is safety.

The same can not be said when building things made of people.  The needs of organizations change as do people within the organization and the unpredictability of life shoots down even our best laid plans.  If predictability is safety here, we’re done!  How do we find our footing and move toward our vision, complete our mission and fulfill our purpose while caring for those who make up an ever-moving organic edifice?

While this is an absolutely massive question—one whose answer could fill volumes—may I make some simple suggestions and pose some questions that I believe will serve to get us down the road to answering that question for our unique situations?

Identify the things that can’t change.



In the midst of such flux, there are some static things that are true of our organizations and the people that comprise them that we must identify.  While it is healthy and realistic to expect changes in organizations, markets and people, having anchors set in the right places can help us and our people weather almost any storm.


How do we discover what and where our anchors are?  Try asking yourself the following questions: What is your mission, vision and purpose?  What are the principles in your organization that are non-negotiable and the areas in which you should rightly refuse to compromise.  What character traits do you value organizationally?



It’s a certainty that the corporate health of any organization is based largely in the individual health of those who compose it.  While the individuals who make up your organization also make up the largest body of variables, there are some unchanging needs that each person has.  While individual needs are as individual as the…individual, Brad Palmer notes five areas that I think we all can relate to:

I matter I need to feel that my organization has a worthwhile purpose. And I need to understand how my tasks contribute and matter to this.

I belong I need to feel part of the tribe. I need to see workplace values that ring true and that are widely shared as the foundation of a vibrant workplace culture.

I’m enabled I need easy access to the tools, information, and processes to do my work. I need clarity on how to find help, get work done, and make decisions.

I contribute I need to have my accomplishments recognized. I need to know that my teammates appreciate and value my contributions.

I’m respected I need to feel respected. My organization must provide an environment of trust where information can be confidently and appropriately shared.


Do your people have a strong sense that they matter, belong, are enabled, able to contribute, and are respected?  These are key elements of a dignity-infused workplace culture.


We must identify the unchanging aspects of our

organizations as well as the unchanging needs of people

who compose them in order to maximize individual

engagement and fulfillment as well as corporate health.

https://blog.jostle.me/blog/the-five-human-needs-in-every-workplace/ (accessed 9/6/2017)

“People Over Process”

Yesterday I had the honor of speaking in Las Vegas at the largest convention for the cleaning and restoration industry in the US. I presented concepts of how the Dignity Principle can be applied to business owners to see catalytic change, how it protects your work culture, and how a Relational Authority model serves to bring out the best engagement in Millennials.

Keep an eye out for the full 20 minute presentation  after I get some editing time after the convention.

The Experience 2017
Speaking on the Dignity Principle in Las Vegas

When building things made of people…

     One of the most exciting things about owning a business is the dynamic nature of everything you come in contact with everyday. Nothing holds still for very long,  especially in a service business. New customers are welcomed into the community of lifelong customers we continue  to serve, estimates convert into work orders, technicians call in sick, jobs go sideways,  and the market constantly shifts; forever moving the bulls-eye just outside your cross-hairs. 

  So what are the secrets to success in such an ever-shifting and volatile environment? What is the compass we hold our core values up against to get a bearing toward success? The Dignity Principle shows us about the one force that seems like the only logical place to start. That force is your most valuable resource, the people you employ. But there’s a twist of course… it doesn’t start with them, it starts with you.

    A long time ago, I received some sage advice from Wes Herman, founder and owner of The Woods Coffee. He told me that no matter what we do, every individual in any company will ultimately end up personifying the most persistent traits of the owner. That is as powerful of an idea as it is petrifying when we stop and ask ourselves if we would be pleased with the thought of everyone in our organizations functioning from the same modus operandi as ourselves. Leadership happens in spite of our best  intentions to wrap it up nicely for display and whether we like it or not, if we are in a position where we are tasked with modeling the culture in any capacity for others, we have an immense responsibility to uphold. This is true for the technician who trains the new guy, all the way to the manager who hires and fires, but for none so critically as the business owner. In the words of Gary Vaynerchuk, “…everything that happens in a company is 100% the CEO’s fault.”

   Now that we’ve had a look in the mirror,  let’s focus on a key fundamental of The Dignity Principle and how it relates to both ourselves and our employees.   


The Dignity Principle prizes Relational Authority over Positional Authority. While Positional Authority must exist, it does not act without first recognizing the humanity/personhood of another.



Let me tell you a story about a guy I recently tried to fire….