Monday, August 16, 2010

The Hierarchy of People

In school we learned about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, a theory in psychology, proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper "A Theory of Human Motivation":

Maslow is regularly cited in business, government and sociological studies and his theory simplifies what is important to people. Before you can go to higher levels, you must satisfy the lower needs.

During the recent years of recession and economic uncertainty many people are living on the second level ("safety / security"). They have seen jobs become unstable or evaporate, and they are worried about the future. When living at this level we are very self-focused.

While humans always strive for the top of any pyramid, and certainly desire "self-actualization", too many are congregating at the bottom levels without a plan to go higher.

Interesting to me is how many people try to skip the middle. In good times and bad there are large numbers that are stuck in "safety needs" who could be raising themselves up. They are not moving toward "self-actualization" because they fail to see the importance of other people. They attempt to jump for the top layers and never create a stable foundation.

Years ago when I began writing and speaking on the topic of "The Power of Business Relationship and Networking" I was told the subject was fluffy. Today smart companies are demanding the skills of building meaningful connections be part of the training provided to their employees. After years of recession business leaders are realizing that much of their success has come through their networks. Thus they are questioning why they (and their employees) do not have more long-term and established relationships.

I am getting inquires to speak from companies, law firms, and associations of all sizes who are struggling to get their team up the pyramid. They think the "social" step should be easy, but are constantly discovering their people are not embracing the importance of business relationships in a way that allows the company to win more business. All opportunities come from people, and to sustain success you need to focus on cultivating your network!

If you want to reach the top you cannot skip the "social" level in the middle.

People matter. While it seems intangible, (and hard to manage, count, and reward) it is the only path to achieving real success.

Have A Great Day.



Anonymous said...

This a great way to frame this argument. While I've learned over the past few years the importance of relationships in business, I don't know that I've ever really noticed it on Maslow's Pyramid.

Of course, the Pyramid doesn't even need to be satisfied linearly. For example, success in the "social" level will almost certainly support the two layers below it. From that perspective, one can make a conscious effort to pursue all these levels simultaneously, since they'll affect each other.

Eugene Sepulveda said...

power should be added to Maslow's list of basic needs. (I'm not focused on fame & power, I'm especially talking about the sense of personal empowerment, though the former is explained in this hierarchy as well)

It's a thirst you'll find everywhere. People will do much to satisfy it. Those among the least empowered will find a way to gain power over others. Recognizing this need helps explain otherwise baffling behaviors