Treating People Like Hand-Made Treasures

Paul Berggren
4 min readJan 28, 2021


Clocks and watches used to be made by hand, one at a time, just like people. In fact everything used to be made by hand one at a time because there was no industrial assembly line to crank out standardized, uniform every day things. The industrial model for making stuff is affective and desirable until it touches people.

Human nature is anything but standardized, uniform, or every day. As much as we like things to bepredictable, people tend to eventually color outside the lines even after being carefully trained to stay in their lane and follow the rules. Chemistry has rules. Math has rules. Manufacturing has rules. People have rules and rules for breaking rules. It’s the “Breaking rules” that makes people so interesting and at times so maddening.

It’s fairly easy to see what we have in common, and what appears to be different. Those things pull us together and separate us. what’s magical is the part that makes us unique. Even when our environment feels industrial like a typical school day or workplace, there are still a spark of uniqueness that can be harnessed to do great things.

Taking the time to listen and understand what makes a person unique, talented, and capable of making a significant contribution to the lives of others is a special skill that can be learned. But first, a person has to love people and care about their well-being, even when they are very different from you. so much of our modern culture reflects an industrial view of most everything, especially people.

Taking the time to understand what makes an individual tick can bring out the best in that person when you intentionally match their strengths and growing edges with appropriate challenges and opportunities. It’s even more powerful when you invest in understanding groups of people and what makes them tick.

Careful listening, asking questions, and observing without judgement reveals unique patterns in how they relate to people, what drives them, how they get things done together, how they measure results, and how they multiply their impact beyond themselves. when this is done with care and with mutual trust, it’s possible to build teams of people that accomplish what others would call impossible.

We praise it in sports teams, but true to the industrial model as soon as the team wins a championship, the team is broken up and reassembled as interchangeable parts. This isn’t a political, economic, or business critique. It’s a human nature critique that has happened all over the world for centuries even by those who claim to be “We the people.”

Look around at how your work and the people doing the work are organized. How did they come together? Were they engaged as people or processed like an assembly line following a checklist? Do you know WHO you’re looking for, or does a vague inner voice or past experience make the big decision? Do people stay and invest or Is there a churn of people and talent?

If the people in this workplace, school, or business are doing great work half the time or less, we call that average to mediocre. If these people are getting great results most of the time with most of their colleagues, we call that excellent. And when we find people who get great results most of the time with most of their colleagues AND they help their colleagues grow higher… we call them leaders.

I find great joy and satisfaction taking the time to listen, ask questions, and understand what makes a talented group of people become aware of what makes them unique in this world. That joy is even sweeter when teach them to hear and recognize these qualities to soar higher and invite others to join. Instead of breaking up the team after a major success, this approach to people binds them even tighter to take on the next challenge together.

Being fully human seeks a made by hand, one at a time approach that honors uniqueness as a group and as individuals. We’re mind, body, AND spirit. Great leaders with or without a title take that to the next level and grow that unique talent from within. Even the systems and processes we use to lead effective teams serve the needs of people, and not the reverse.

Next time you are tempted to conform or make others conform to a closed industrial solution, remember to treat people as more than organic machines. Approach the people in your life with hand-made care, one at a time treasures.

Photo by Jacek Dylag on



Paul Berggren

I help people listen and learn from each other. As President of Crown Global HR, I bring clarity to growing and hiring people.