The Adaptive Agency Blog

Love People, Not Things

by | Sep 26, 2023 | Culture

I heard this quote years ago from Spencer Kimball and it stuck:

“Love people, not things; use things, not people.”

As it pertains to business, nothing could be more calculated to produce long-term success and happiness.

People Need To Be Cared About.

People don’t want to be cared about—they need to be cared about.

When you understand someone, align with their needs, and invest in them, you’re fulfilling one of their most basic human needs.

You feel the same way, right? You want to be around people who genuinely care about you.

We all do.

But what does that mean for business?

It means that those you interact with—customers, employees, bosses, vendors, and even competitors—are people.


You can love them or use them. Your choice. But the results will be different.

Loving Things and Using People

When you use people to get what you want, you’re extracting their effort. It’s not stealing—typically, they’ve agreed to do a job in exchange for some pay.

But what is the job?

Is it applying labor for a specified number of hours? Or applying their hearts and minds to produce something great?

If you use people to get things, that’s a transaction. People will respond transactionally. And the thing about transactions is that everyone wants to get the best deal.

The pay has been decided, but you want them to give their best, and they want to do the minimum. And that’s especially true if they feel like you don’t care about them. There’s nothing to reciprocate.

And if they happen to be of such high character that they’ll give their best without feeling cared about, nothing prevents them from taking a better job.

It doesn’t matter who’s right. It matters how people feel. You can fight human nature if you want, but human nature will win.

Also, keep in mind that this doesn’t just apply to employees. It also applies to customers. Do they know that you care about them?

Loving People and Using Things

By contrast, when people know you care about them, they’ll respond more affirmatively. Call it a paradox, but if you stop extracting and start investing, they’re more likely to give their best.

And if you’re investing in the people who are going to produce your results, you’re actually investing in your results.

Loving people at work looks like this:

  1. Understanding them and making sure they know it.
  2. Aligning with them and investing in them.
  3. Being patient and taking the long view.

That last thing—patience—is the hardest part. We tend to want short-term results, but that’s not how people evolve and it’s not how investments grow.

So, to get short-term results, we revert to establishing control. We think we can get what we want through a framework of behavioral controls. And we can get some things: time, labor, the minimum, etc.

But when we invest and take the long view, we actually align what’s best for them with what’s best for us. And so the more we invest in them, the more we’re investing in their ability to champion our needs.

Again, this applies to employees but also to customers. How will they respond if they know you understand them, align with them, invest in them, and take the long view of the relationship? What would the impact on your business be?

Of course, there are limits.

You don’t have forever. It’s a job, and you need results. Not everybody deserves a seat on your bus. But emptying the bus less often will be great for your business. Your focus should be on getting the right people and turning their time with you into a journey that will inspire them to give their best.

Using people has diminishing returns, whereas loving them compounds.

Using people extracts labor, whereas loving them leverages talent.

Using people produces 1x or 2x. Loving them produces 5x or 10x.

In the long run, you’ll be so much more fulfilled, successful, and happy if you’ve become an expert at getting what you want by loving other people.