“Read the manual.”

This was Rob’s response when a message to assess tyre pressure flashed up on the dashboard of our new sports car.

The more technology in a car, the more things are likely to go wrong. And need a complex fix.

I don’t want to read the manual. 

I just want the car to work.

I have absolutely zero interest in how a car works, its specifications, performance level, torque, revs or any other statistic. It bores me senseless.

A car is to get me from A to B. I don’t really like driving and can’t wait for the network of driverless machines to arrive. It will save so much productive time.

For some leaders, people stuff is the same. 

We just want people to do their job, to the level that’s expected, in a time frame that suits our needs. Resistance is irritating. Robots would be better.

Just as some people love cars and spend hours studying all the nuances of their structure, shape, and drive performance, some people love people stuff. 

I happen to be one of those people people. 

I am obsessed with learning as much as I can about why people do what they do, how they think, how they see the world, how they act in it, how they interact, what motivates them.

For others, this feels like a waste of valuable productive time. Time that could be better spent actually doing work that produces results.

Unfortunately, until robots and AI replace various human roles, we can expect years of future interaction with those complex pesky beings called humans. 

And if you’re not a people person, you’d better read the manual.

What manual?

There are plenty. Since the dawn of the written word, people people have been capturing insights about humans and their behaviour.

Start with any article or book on:

Emotional intelligence, social intelligence, difficult conversations, feedback.

The fundamental practice for being a better people leader is this:

Be curious. Ask ‘why’? Read, ask, or learn something about the human behaviour you are experiencing. Experiment with what you learn. Reflect and journal about it. Repeat.

If only you could take people to a mechanic…

What people manuals (books/podcasts/magazines/resources do you recommend? How has that made a difference to your leadership?


Image credit: https://findbyplate.com


  • Zoë Routh

    Australia's Leadership Expert, Author of Book of the Year "People Stuff" l Speaker l Mentor l Strategist

    Zoë Routh is one of Australia’s leading experts on people stuff - the stuff that gets in our way of producing results, and the stuff that lights us up. She works with the growers, makers, builders to make people stuff fun and practical.

    Zoë is the author of four books: Composure - How centered leaders make the biggest impact,  Moments - Leadership when it matters most, Loyalty - Stop unwanted staff turnover, boost engagement, and build lifelong advocates, and People Stuff - Beyond Personalities: An advanced handbook for leadership. People Stuff was awarded Book of the Year 2020 by the Smart WFM Australian Business Book Awards.

    Zoë is also the producer of The Zoë Routh Leadership Podcast.