Put People First and Do What is Right


Recently I wrote “Doing what is right – Timpson“, about a company in the UK I have admired from afar.

Today a story about the corporate purpose and values of a company that I have got to know first-hand and that continues to hugely impress me with the way they live their values and own who they are, 

The picture above was taken in Edmonton, Alberta in summer 2018 as steelworkers worked on what is now the tallest building in Canada outside Toronto, the Stantec Tower.

The photo reminds one of this seminal image from 1932 atop the then unfinished Rockefeller Plaza in New York.

lunch atop a skyscraper

Now, as this article from CBC notes:

“The photos have some notable differences — the Manhattan steelworkers smoke cigarettes and eat lunch without the assurances of harnesses or hard hats, while the Edmonton crew opted for a simple pose with their mandatory safety equipment firmly attached.”

For the project, Stantec was the tower’s designer, engineer and project manager, and now occupy 19 floors of the building.

So, if you know Stantec, you would know that they absolutely insist on the highest safety standards, hence while vertigo-inducing to see, one knows that the steelworkers in that 2018 photo are absolutely safe.

Safety Moments

I truly believe in the power of purpose-driven leadership. In Stantec, a company I have worked with in recent years in supporting some of their leaders, I have always witnessed and felt this as at the core of who they are and what they do.

Around “who they are”, Stantec meetings start with a “Safety Moment”. In fact, beyond meetings, Safety Moments go into corporate plan openings. Here, with permission, I share with you a Safety Moment statement at the beginning of their 2019 Strategic Plan, sent to all staff. It is a searingly powerful reinforcement of who they are (bold type is mine) :

“Throughout the development of Strategic Plan 2019, two overarching tenets were paramount: the health and safety of our employees will always remain our first priority, and our commitment to ethical business practices will never be compromised.

Everything we do as a company falls under the umbrella of safety and ethics.

They aren’t “programs” – they underpin everything we do and define our culture.”

Truly powerful and authentic leadership for a growing engineering and design giant with revenues over $5bn and 22,000 professionals around the world.

Put People First and Do What is Right

I noted above that I am a great believer in the power of Purpose-driven leadership. As an aside, I wrote in “Purpose, People, Planet. The new triple bottom line” about how leading from this place can and does (giving examples of thriving large companies) lead to Profit, which itself can then create a “righteous flywheel” as Profit allows further scaling of leading from purpose and values to create more impact.

Leading from Purpose is amplified and consistency more greatly assured by leading from a simple and concise Purpose and (short) set of Values.

From the first time I read the Purpose and Values page of Stantec (see here), I felt they hit the mark and were authentic and followed.

Purpose :

  • Creating Communities


  • We Put People First
  • We Do What is Right
  • We Are Better Together
  • We Are Driven to Achieve

In my experience, Stantec leaders, with their paramount focus on safety, will always link any decisions around this to the first two of those values. As the title of this post says, they:

Put People First and Do What is Right

Sometimes it can cost more money to be safe. Sometimes around the world safety standards vary and may not be up to those a Canadian engineering giant may set as their own high standard. One can imagine this could lead to some pressures for any listed company that has revenue and profit targets to meet, but in the long run, a company that lives their values will always “put people first and do the right thing” and lead from that sense of purpose and values.

As to those potentially conflicting pressures, Warren Buffett’s mentor was Benjamin Graham, who said: “In the short run, the Market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine.” I truly believe that a company that lives their purpose and values so clearly, that will always come from a place where they “put people first and do the right thing”, such a company will attract and retain the best staff, the best clients, as well as building communities of partnerships of various kinds. Such a company will be weighed in the long run and found to be of high value.


Also published on Medium.