Good Things Happen When We Put People First

Can you succeed in business and life when you put people first? Yes. Yes you can.

This episode outlines what it means to be helpful at home and at work, how taking an experimental approach to our work is a positive thing, and successful examples from life and business of the good things that happen when we put people first.


  • 1:02 What is The Be Helpful Experiment?
  • 3:58 Karma
  • 4:28 Servant Leadership
  • 5:03 Understanding & provide the right solution

Benefits of Putting People First

  • 6:14 Why repeat business is so important
  • 7:26 The most important thing I’ve learnt
  • 8:00 Experiments are good
  • 9:15 Positive outlook on life

Examples of Good Things That Happen

  • 10:43 My parents receiving lots of support after helping others for years
  • 14:00 Delivering the project nobody else could

Advantages to Putting People First

  • 17:06 Employees and businesses
  • 17:58 In life

What is The Be Helpful Experiment?

I’ve got this theory to prove that good things do happen when we put people first. That we can be successful in business and in life when we take the time to be kind and understand the people around us. Whether that’s family, friends, co-workers, our boss.

When we sit and listen to their needs and help them and support them, we become somebody that, people want to work with, people want to be friends with, we want to be friends with them. We’re happy when we come home at the end of the day, and our family is happy to see us.

So, how do we get to this point of being somebody that others can rely on?

That’s the driving force behind my idea that good things happen when we put people first, and the experiment is all about the different ways we can do that. the ways we behave in the office, how we ask our co-workers to do things for us.

For example, if we’re a team leader or a project manager, how do we ask people, or influence them? Maybe we’re doing change initiatives and we have people who are champions, but we also have people who are resistant to those changes. How can we influence them in a positive and an ethical manner, to come on board, to get excited for what we’re doing?

How can we how can we be a better, family member? A better husband, brother, sister, mother, wife? How can we be a better friend?

Be Helpful

The dictionary definition for helpful is, “somebody who is useful.”

I have a couple of contexts to add to that. The first one is me, I am useful. The second one, is being helpful as a company or team leader when we understand what people need to be successful and providing the right solution.

As a leader, friend, husband, son, I want to be somebody that others can rely on. People can come to me and say, “Hey, Paul! Can you do this for me?” Not, not for some ego trip, but simply because I’m helping them to achieve what they need to.

There’s a huge amount of satisfaction, when we’re helping others and we see them smile, solve their problem, and generally make their day better.

It’s that that idea of karma. What you put in you, you get out. If we put in goodness and kindness, that’s what we’re going to get back. If we are angry and we put in fear and panic and stress, that’s what we’re going to get back.

We can think about putting people first as about karma, and from a business and leadership perspective we have Servant Leadership. Where we support our teammates and our colleagues. We’re there to help them achieve their goals and their objectives, and to get the results they’ve been tasked with.

When we do that we’re helping ourselves. As out team mates are achieving their results, in turn, we’re achieving ours. So you see, it’s a very symbiotic relationship.

The business perspective of being helpful is understanding what people need to be successful and then providing that right solution. As we go through we’ll be looking at how we can understand our team and clients, and how to provide that right solution.

When we do that, people keep coming back for more. We get repeat business. In many ways, when we put people first an advantage is that we stand above our peers because we’re able to deliver on the projects that others can’t and we’re the reason that our customers and team are engaged.

The idea of repeat business is fundamental for me. Over the years I’ve worked for a large number of different companies, but there are two that stand out. They had a lot of potential with wonderful products and talented teams, but they were so wrapped up in just selling they didn’t really care about their client relationships. Almost all of their business was new, there very little recurring.

Ultimately, both companies failed and that’s really sad for the people that were working there.

Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learnt from managing teams and seeing other people manage, is that it’s about building those relationships. It’s all about that trust.

As we’re building that trust, people will open up and it makes it easier for us to understand what they need to be successful. It also makes it easier for us to be able to provide the right solution for them, so they can be successful.

Experiments Are Good

An experiment for me is, you just go out and try stuff. You see what sticks. And if it works, great, you do more of it. And if you’re doing something that doesn’t work so well, you stop doing it. You tweak and you move on.

A quote from Buckminster Fuller neatly defines the idea of an experiment:

“Every time man makes a new experiment, he always learns more.”

We’re learning. We’re making informed decisions. We have an expectation as to what’s going to happen. Which complements my positive approach.

I try to be as easy going as I can be. The glass is always half-full. It’s never half-empty because there’s always something in it.

An experiment feels like we’re setting ourselves up for success, because we’ve thought about what we’re going to do, we’ve thought about our variables, we’ve got a theory, we’ve got a method. We know what we want to achieve out of it.

I’m not a big one, honestly, for the whole, “Feel the fear and do it anyway!” or “Step outside your comfort zone!” or the Fail Fast approach. And I get it that it works for certain people. Good for them, right! I mean we’re all individuals and I think that’s what makes the world go round, that’s what makes the world so interesting, we are all so different.

But for me, I’m much more about setting myself up for success and to think that I am actually going to succeed at this, rather than expecting to fail and then having to do something about it.

I’d much rather get my ducks in a row first, and then go out and do it knowing that I am going to succeed.

Examples of Good Things That Happen

When my parents retired they both put a lot of time and effort into the community and doing a lot of charity work. My mum won a Queen’s award for her work with the Befrienders Society. This meant afternoon tea on the lawn at Buckingham Palace and she got to talk to Princess Anne for a couple of minutes. I’m very proud of my mum for that!

Befrienders are people visit with and talk to elderly people who are considered vulnerable, or they’re living on their own and there’s no family. They’re going around to be a friendly ear, to listen and to provide a shoulder and a friendly face for other people to talk to.

Because my mum and my dad have been very community and charity oriented for about the last thirty years, they’ve lived in the same place for a long time, they know a lot of people. And my mum is very service oriented, very giving, and doesn’t expect anything in return. At all. And she’s very surprised when that happens.

Unfortunately my dad’s got sick over the last couple of years. And recently was rushed into hospital for emergency surgery – things went well, thankfully. What’s been very gratifying is all of the people that have come to help my mum.

People have been been buying food, particularly with the Coronavirus and my parents being in lockdown due to my dad’s poor health, people have gone shopping for my mum. People have been moving furniture around to try and help my dad get around the house a little bit better. They’ve also been providing meals while dad’s in hospital.

This is all because for the last 30 years, because she’s just so friendly and giving, it’s now coming back. People are like, “Oh hey, remember that time Ann did this for us? Well now is our opportunity to give back.”

It’s a wonderful thing.

Now here’s a business example when we put people first instead of relying on processes. Couple of years ago I was asked to gather all of the supervisory organization data for the large university I worked at. This is HR data for who reports to whom from the top with the university president all the way down to our student employees.

Now, they tried to gather this data the year before, but had it gone terribly. All they’d done was send out a mass email with a single spreadsheet and said, “Fill this in!” Very much a process first approach.

Unsurprisingly, they only received about 25% of the data they needed and got a lot of angry pushback from managers.

I pulled together a working group from all across the university including all sorts of different levels, different colleges, and different operations units.

I said “Hey, look this is what we would like to do, this is why we need to do. What’s a good way to, to get us there?”

I was able to build trust and relationships to help everyone understand why the university needed the data to be collected and held centrally (previously it was very distributed). In return they helped me understand how big a lift of it was, and the best way to gather all of that data.

It’s not just a simple, “Oh, it’ll take me five minutes. I’ll just send you my PowerPoint, or I’ll just send you my Excel file.” For example, when you have a unit with two and a half, nearly three thousand temporary employees in it, and they change almost every semester it’s going to take a long time to gather all of that data.

Because we had that trust and that level of comfort with each other, I understood what their needs were and and they understood why I needed the data, we were able to come together and collect the full data set, by the time that we needed it.

All because we took that people first approach, and the policy and process second.

Advantages to Putting People First

When we put people first the advantage from an employee standpoint, is we are going to stand above our peers because we’re able to grow trust with people and have relationships that others can’t get. Because we have that trust and those relationships, we’re able to deliver the projects that others can’t. Which gives us a huge amount of value and help us grow our careers. And because we’re able to do that, we’re able to get that repeat business.

Which is good for us as an employee. It’s good for the company because repeat business means more income, and income means job security and promotion and growth.

It’s also good for us as consultants those running their own business. Repeat business is what we want to get.

In life, when we put people first we’re a good person. We’re someone that others want to be around, we help people, we make people smile, we
make them laugh. Wherever we go we lite up the room. We’re somebody that people want to be around because we make their worlds better.

More Actionable Advice