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Part 2 Management Tip #20

First Who, Then What

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Tip 20: First Who, Then What

Happiness is not found in self-contemplation; it is perceived only when it is reflected from another.
- Samuel Johnson

I am fond of quoting two important philosophers: Jean Paul Sartre, the existentialist philosopher who said, "Hell is other people," and the late positive psychologist, Christopher Peterson, who said, "Happiness is other people." Well, they both can't be right. My experience tells me they are both right…my best and worse days have been caused by other people.

Good to Great is one of the best management books ever written. The book written in 2001 was a massive bestseller. Author, James Collins followed eleven companies and distinguished what made those companies great as compared to similar companies in their domain. He found seven characteristics that made biggest differences. One of them was the principle First Who, Then What: Get the right people on the bus, then figure out where to go. Find the right people and try them out in different positions. Once you have the right people in place, figure out the best path to greatness.

This philosophy has coincided with my experience through forty years of practice…from staff to patients, working with and for delightful, motivated people is what truly sustained my well-being. I have been lucky enough to find people who have stayed with me up to thirty-eight years. I can't say enough about my staff.

Collins adds, "If you have the wrong people, it doesn't matter whether you discover the right direction; you still won't have a great company. Great vision without great people is irrelevant."

I have found the same to be true of patients. Most dentists understand the feeling of looking at the next day's schedule and feeling good or bad depending on "who" is coming in rather than "what" the procedure is going to be. As far as the "what," author Marcus Buckingham, in his book The One Thing, tells us that the one thing all successful people do is stop doing what they don't like to do. But it's the "who" that makes the biggest difference.

The truth is that people make their own choices. Business author Michael Gerber goes so far as to say people cannot be managed. We have limited ability to change others. We can have profound influence on other people…but in the end, they make their own choices. One of the reasons why most philosophical views start with, like I did in this book, self-examination, is that all management is self-management. Thomas à Kempis, a monk understood this human limitation when he said, "If you cannot make yourself what you would wish to be, how can you bend others to your will?"

This tip is about recognizing the importance of other people for our well-being. There are things we can control, like our ability to influence people through leadership and communication. We can also control other things, our energy as mentioned before, and developing systems that will help to create an overall culture.

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