When Chevron CEO John Watson retired he offered some wise parting words. In a post on LinkedIn earlier this month, Watson wrote that it took him some time to realize “that you can be much more effective if you recognize the importance of people in business.”

Then, Watson imparts a sense of urgency as he reflects:

“The sooner you learn about reading people, listening to others and building relationships, the sooner you will be more effective. […] So I would have spent a little more time on the people side, a little more time on the relationship side, early in my career.”

I agree.

But how do you better understand and connect with people? I have a few suggestions:

Make studying people your pastime. People watching and listening provide invaluable insights into what makes us all tick. Most of us spend most of our time thinking about ourselves––how we’re perceived, what we’ll say next, etc. To people watch and listen successfully, you have to shift your focus from yourself to others. Try to observe people as if you were from another planet and it’s your mission to discover what these “human” beings are and how they operate.

Read books by other studiers of people. I recommend the following five, especially if you’re hoping to understand people in order to create better business performance:


An Open Life by Joseph Campbell

Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse

The Path of Least Resistance for Managers by Robert Fritz

Leadership: The Inner Side of Greatness by Dr. Peter Koestenbaum

Contented Cows Give Better Milk by Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden


Enjoy, and as always, let me know what you think.