Are humans more than “assets?”

After reading my last column about how Wall Street values strong leadership, a colleague who coaches Fortune 500 CEOs told me he wasn’t fond of the phrase “monetizing human assets.” This language, he told me, suggests a view of human beings that is precisely the opposite of what he is working to promote. Was I aware of this?

I was and am, so let me round out the picture. Humans are wonderfully complex miracles of creation, and this is true even when our behaviors get distorted by organizational cultures outside of us and personality patterns within us. Even as we serve organizations, it is crucial that organizations serve us. Any language that suggests we are objects to be manipulated should be used cautiously if at all.

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In retrospect, by quoting a professor using the phrase “monetizing human assets”–and not offering my own caveat or disclaimer–I was not practicing sufficient caution.

What I was trying to do is offer a provocative perspective to my readers. Isn’t it wildly surprising that Wall Street adjusts its valuation of companies based upon the perceived quality of those companies’ leadership? I think so. And the implications are enormous. This is why my colleague who expressed such distaste for the language also said he would be spending more time with his CEO clients physically and emotionally preparing for visits to Wall Street–perhaps even joining them during these visits to provide coaching in the “in between” moments.