Learning & Development

5 Tips for Leading with A People-First Approach That Can Transform Your Business

The last few years have been tough—we’ve all been through a lot. However, while our realities and expectations have greatly shifted both personally and professionally, it’s afforded many of us a refreshed definition of what is most important. In turn, this has also created a renewed perspective on how we, as individuals, would like to be treated and how to be better to others. This sentiment can be helpful in all aspects of our lives but especially in how we lead in business.

Richard Branson once said, “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” This is an undeniable truth. The key to happy customers is happy employees—and that’s what being people-first means. Your employees should be your most valued asset; without them, there would be no products or services to offer or customers to delight. In fact, 85% of respondents to a recent IDC survey agree that an improved employee experience and higher employee engagement translate to a better customer experience, higher customer satisfaction, and higher revenue for their organization.

These days, maintaining employee happiness may feel challenging, but keep in mind that it doesn’t take big changes alone to create this feeling. Sometimes, a lot of little changes can create the bigger impact you seek and have an even greater positive impact on your customers, making it a worthwhile investment of your time and energy.


Make yourself available to everyone, not just your direct reports. Sure, we’re all busy and have what often feels like a never-ending “to do” list, but never forget that you likely needed help or guidance at one point or another, too. By creating “open space” that focuses on the human element of business, employees can feel more supported, more seen, and more heard. If employees know you’re receptive when approached and that they will be treated fairly, these types of interactions will ripple down to create improved customer interactions, as well.

Empower Your People to Succeed (and Fail)

As a leader, you can easily fall into the trap of over-managing everything and everyone. After all, the buck stops with you, right? Wrong. We all need to have accountability for what we are tasked with, and that takes trust. But trust is a two-way street, not a highway and a bike path. That means as a leader, if you expect your employees to trust that you are doing your job—to manage the company with its best interests and the interests of its customers in mind—you need to find ways to let go and trust your people to do what you hired them to do. And if a mistake is made, move forward. Knowledge and innovation stem from learning, and without lessons to learn from, we can’t get better. Create space for your team to think, explore, and grow. They will likely teach you something you didn’t know or think of before, making you better in return.

Cultivate a People-Focused Culture

A people-focused culture within your team and the organization is going to reverberate throughout all engagements with customers and prospects. Your customers will become witness to, and feel, a sense of community, camaraderie, and chemistry, which, in turn, influences their trust and confidence in staying with or selecting you as their partner. Business is about relationships and becoming an extension of another’s team, not serving as a drive-through order taker.

Embrace and Promote a Growth Mindset  

Encourage employees to share not only their work-related concerns but also their concerns about family, health, pets, etc. This can deepen connections and nurture and grow relationships and knowledge, which, in turn, creates more awareness of what others are experiencing and the best ways to work together with empathy. People grow when we embrace the fact that the lines between our work and personal lives have blurred, and when we operate like that inside a company culture—with a growth mindset—we become more attuned to customers’ needs, as well.


People leave jobs for a variety of reasons. If employees do decide to take their career in another direction, treat them with honesty and fairness. You want people to look back at their time working with/for you as time well spent with people who were great to work with and who held themselves accountable and treated everyone equally. Up until their very last day, treat those who have decided to leave as you did when they first joined the organization. Continue to be their advocate, and if they were good employees, make them feel like your door is always open and that they have a home to “boomerang” back to. The same principal holds true for customers; people remember individuals and organizations that do the right thing in the right way.

Looking Ahead

The Great Resignation may have made its mark on history, but it’s vital that we not overlook the important lessons it taught us to avoid a repeat in the future.

At the end of the day, people are people, and because of this, we must treat employee happiness like any other relationship in our lives. To be successful, it requires understanding, trust, communication, empathy, and support.

With these key tenets at play, you can create not only a rich culture but also a business worth doing business with.

Paul Vian is a seasoned sales executive with over 20 years of experience in Europe and North America. He has a comprehensive understanding of customer relationships and the entire enterprise sales cycle. In his role as chief revenue officer at Apps Associates, Vian is responsible for driving growth across all areas of digital transformation, measuring client success, and developing partner strategy.

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