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How Do You View Your Employees? Narrow or Wide?


[New post from Tom Miller – President and founder of Symbolist.  You can read more about him and where he’ll be this year on our Leadership page.]


So I’m a little late to the game regarding popular movies and saw Flight for the first time this weekend.  A really good movie that, along with telling a great story, packed in some very thought provoking scenarios.

But one phrase in the movie caught my attention – so much so that I searched out the origin.  Turns out the roots are a little fuzzy, but everyone agrees that the term originated long ago with sailors.  Airline pilots picked up the phrase and continue to use it.

“Souls on board”

Denzel Washington’s character and others in the movie referred to the people on the plane as “souls on board” or even simply as “souls.”  Clearly, the word is interchangeable with the term most anyone not schooled in the tradition would use – people.

But when I heard the term, it struck me that there was something deeper, something more complex, when using the word souls to refer to people.

Ok – so there are some religious rabbits that could be chased here, but that’s not my intent.  My point is that there is something about being a person – being human – that is special and beyond the flesh and blood part of walking this earth.  I wonder what would happen if organizations challenged themselves to consider how to care for “souls” instead of “people.”

Does that simple change of focus suggest a different approach?  Do we now think about more ways to impact an individual outside of free coffee and doggie-daycare?  Does thinking about your employees in a wider context change your thinking about engagement and work/life balance?

There are shelves of books being published about “employee engagement” and ample research to suggest that meeting individual needs in the workplace will provide a return to the organization – that’s all good and worthy to work towards.

I wonder, if we focus on the bigger picture and remember the “souls” we impact, would the ripple effect on improving lives be larger– and better – for the company, for the individual employee – and even for you personally?

Just a thought.

What do you think?  Do we think to narrowly when we consider our employees – too one-dimensionally?

If so – how do we change that?

One Response to “How Do You View Your Employees? Narrow or Wide?”

  1. Symbolist says:

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