Are we forgetting the people?

With all the talk about AI lately, it would be easy to think that we are forgetting the people.  Automation, and AI in particular, are great tools and will continue to help us in our everyday life (spell check and bots) and in our professional life (productivity tools).

This is NOT what I was referring to in the title, though…

During a Q&A section of a presentation recently, we were discussing that, as professionals, we tend to focus on our technical expertise, as we should.  However, sometimes we focus so much on those technical points that we forget about the people.  Those human beings that have feelings and emotions.  The very ones we are so bound and determined to help with our technical knowledge.

We discussed that focusing on the technical points and forgetting the person, can cause us to miss the critical cues that convey far more than whether or not the person across from us understands the information being presented. The analytic assessment that we are hired to provide can be entirely accurate while also being received as brash, hurtful, or unthinkable.

It was an engaging and inspiring dialogue that allowed us to come to the following conclusions:

We need to keep our situational awareness present, especially when we’re deep in the technical weeds.
It’s not enough just to make our technical point. We need to understand the impact of our message and watch how it’s received. This takes some preparation and a good bit of empathy.

We need to care more about serving our client than being the smartest person in the room.
As technical professionals we are taught to focus on the hard facts and the analytics. We have our charts and our dogma, but, as Theodore Roosevelt famously said —

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Get to know your client. Understand their journey. Put yourself in their shoes to really get a sense of their perspective.

We need to hone our own version of “Bedside Manner”.
In our eagerness to deliver our brilliant analysis we need to account for the unique qualities of the recipient.
Yes – people value clear communication, but we would like it delivered with care. Yes – people want the truth (at least most of us) but we don’t want to feel devastated by it.

We are all on a journey that has ups and downs. More and more, we need strong technical advisors to navigate a very complex environment. The best advisors know how to deliver their recommendations with the care and compassion appropriate to each situation. Doing so builds trust which leads to strong relationships (and permission to deliver even tougher advice).

Don’t forget the people. Especially the ones we are trying to help.

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Erik Owen is the President of Oak Hill Business Partners and has over 20 years of professional experience in Finance and Accounting, Administration, and General Management.  You can call Erik at 414.852.0015 or email him at

Oak Hill Business Partners is a boutique management consulting firm serving middle market closely held companies. Based in Milwaukee, Wis., our partners focus on helping growing companies become scalable by applying functional excellence in finance & administration, sales, marketing, and operations.  Oak Hill also helps company owners plan and execute transition/exit planning holistically. Oak Hill partners work with a team of advisors including wealth and legal advisors to help owners understand their options for transition in the business and execute the plan that meets their specific needs.

Posted by Erik Owen