When you say that “people are our most important asset,” what do you mean? What’s behind the statement, “I’m going to visit my best client”? There has been a lot in the news lately about poor treatment of people (mostly women) in the workplace, where they are considered objects for sexual gratification. It’s easy to say that behavior is bad. But are there other ways in which we treat other people as objects, their value to us defined by what they can do for us. Objectification of other people is disrespect, devaluation. And it is also short-sighted. The real, sustainable value in working with and being with other people stems from mutual respect and authenticity in communication.

The Gatekeeper

Salespersons develop entire strategies for getting past the gatekeeper. The term in and of itself demonstrates the objectification of this person. He or she is referred to as a thing. This person/object is standing between the business developer and the target of his or her sales pitch. A staffer might also encounter a gatekeeper when the staffer is trying to “sell” ideas inside the company, or gain access to higher levels of authority. In either case, when the “salesperson” tries to push past the gatekeeper the gate can be surprisingly resistant. If, on the other hand, the “salesperson” takes time to see the whole person and engage in conversation with the administrative assistant or first contact, the connection can become a facilitator rather than a barrier.

The Machine

This object is a person who is outstanding at getting a particular task done. The Machine might also be called the Golden Goose. Sometimes the owner of the Machine becomes greedy, and exhorts the Tool to work harder, faster, longer. The stress and frustration of constant performance pressure starts to reduce the Machine’s productivity. When this drumbeat of “Stroke! Stroke! Stroke!” happens too often, or goes on for too long, the Machine does have some recourse. He might leave, taking his talents elsewhere, maybe even to the competition. Given long term rough treatment, the Machine might join together with others and organize in a walkout or unionization attempt. She might even start her own competing business.

The Walking Wallet

The Walking Wallet is the suspect (don’t know whether he or she is a qualified prospect yet) that you want to approach as a potential new customer. You see the potential for a sale (and some commission dollars for yourself). When a person is objectified as a Walking Wallet, as soon as you find out that they are not going to buy or they do not have the resources to do so, you check out of the conversation as soon as possible. Without a real opportunity to interact and explore their interests as well as your own, you may never find out that their 3 best friends are right in your target market. Nor will you have built the rapport that could lead to other future benefits for you – and them.

Results Obsession and its Hazards

When you are a leader you are responsible for achieving results. You are responsible for good enough results today on your way to better results tomorrow. So when you try to take a short cut and run through the people along the way, even if today you are able to get what you want, what about tomorrow? What about the next day? It takes time to build relationships, whether you’re inside work or out. Invest the time to really SEE the person with whom you are interacting and listen for what they need. When you take time to find common ground and reciprocate so that all parties can have their needs met, you build the foundation for a sustainable, partnership-oriented venture. This is the type of venture in which everyone has an opportunity to win, over and over again.