Strategy and Your People: How to Sustain Success
Breaking the Barriers to Change

A Key to Optimising Your Human Capital

The perpetual balancing act between selfishness and selflessness, or self-interest and group-interest, is evolutionarily fundamental. So much so that it has been described as “The Paradox of Being Human.” Thus, while I have written about it before, I have not stopped thinking about it and it remains integral to everything I do. Recently, I have been seeking a way to portray it more effectively, and, in the spirit of “a picture being worth a thousand words”, more graphically.

Thus – building on the idea of individual growth as being the main driver of “selfish” endeavour, and ‘contribution’ (or “making a difference”) as the creator of a sense of belonging and thus being the primary force behind “selfless” endeavour – I came up with this.

The Personal Matrix (Internal)

You may be able to find better labels than these, but these provide a good start for classifying how an individual feels about their work. This is significant because it addresses something that is currently not considered and that – consciously or sub-consciously – shapes an employee’s attitude. And attitude, in turn, determines an employee’s level of engagement. So, if you are serious about your efforts to improve employee engagement, this is something that should interest you.

In fact, even if you do not have an employee engagement programme, you should still be interested. After all, attitude is one of the three essential elements of performance assessment. That is why you need to include attitude if you are looking to drive performance improvement (and why it is a key part of the ‘Every Individual Matters’ model!)  

As intimated - the labels are largely driven by the employee’s values. These are innately personal but nonetheless provide a framework for the individual to assess how they feel about themselves. This presents a challenge as it demands a degree of openness and trust, but this is something you should be striving for anyway, and the extent to which you respond constructively to their revelations will determine whether you succeed or not.  

Of course, values are not the only determinants of personal well-being. The very idea of ‘contribution’ implies the need for external measures to gauge the effect of your efforts on others. You could call this feedback and the most obvious form of feedback is reward, which – when it comes to employees – is inevitably remuneration. This can be depicted by the following matrix.

The Personal Matrix (Rewards)

Here we are again looking at outcomes from the individual’s perspective. This is a more passive exercise looking at consequences and – with the possible replacement of the word ‘fortunate’ with ‘greedy’ – could apply just as well to the organisational perception of the individual. You can change the labels if you don’t like them. They are not necessarily definitive, but are simply my attempt to categorise perception of the relationship between effort and the rewards received as a result.

This on its own could foster and frame constructive discussion. But it becomes even more powerful when you make it less passive. Conventionally you do this by clarifying the relationship and using the process to shape the rewards. Traditionally this boils down to salary and bonuses. These, however, have been open to manipulation and abuse, and thus have a blemished record. Which is why the ‘Every Individual Model’ looks at value instead – assigning a value to role and varying the value according to the way the employee fulfils the role.   

This changes the dynamics of the discussion, especially by including the elements of the earlier matrix. It forms and cements a new and more meaningful employer/employee relationship. That alone could be a major breakthrough in employment relations. In any event it also provides a sound basis for enhancing employee engagement, improving organisational performance and making the workplace a better place for all.


If you like what you have read contact me today to discuss how my ‘Every Individual Matters’ Model could help you value your people and provide the catalyst to help you create an organic culture where everyone cares and the business becomes our business, embedding continuous improvement that engenders ‘love at work’ and transforms – and sustains – organic business performance.


Bay Jordan

Bay is the founder and director of Zealise, and the creator of the ‘Every Individual Matters’ organisational culture model that helps transform organisational performance and bottom-line results. Bay is also the author of several books, including “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” and “The 7 Deadly Toxins of Employee Engagement” and, more recently, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped.


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