HIdden Treasures

21 08 2012

In the last blog I talked about the joy of putting on an old pair of jeans and finding out they’re a little loose. That’s the first half of the Great Jeans Surprise and I want to talk about the other half of that; finding a folded up $20 bill in the pocket.

Was your dad like mine? Every time I’d ask for some new toy or electronic gadget, he’d grunt and say some version of “money doesn’t grow on trees.” Obviously I know that’s true, but how great would life be if we did have a money tree, even for a day? It’d probably create more problems than it solved, but it’s fun to think about. 

Well, finding money in my pocket has always made me feel a little like owning that mythical money tree. It wasn’t money I was counting on, money I’d misplaced and forgotten about. Its sudden reappearance is nothing but a bonus because I’d obviously adjusted to life without it. And since it wasn’t something I was counting on, I always feel grateful for the discovery. I’m left with the feeling that I’ve beat the house, like a guy who walks away from a Vegas table with more cash than he brought and a smile on his face. 

What does this have to do with your company, you ask? I’d be willing to bet a significant amount of money that you have the equivalent to a forgotten $20 bill somewhere in your organization. I’m talking about a person toiling away at some position that doesn’t fully exploit their potential, a person whose contribution to the company could far exceed their current contribution if only they’d be “found.”

The real question is how you find this person? Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer for that. But a good start is keeping your antenna up in a slightly different way than usual. Our business culture puts a great deal of value in numbers and metrics, spreadsheets and dashboards, but often at the expense of the people behind those reports. So make sure you’ve identified the people behind consistently strong metrics. Give untested staff a chance to stretch their skills a bit and pay attention to how they react. And most importantly, ask a lot of questions. You won’t find that surprise person every time out, just like you won’t find money in your jeans every time you put a pair on. But that’s ok. After all, money doesn’t grow on trees. 


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