Talented and ambitious people within our organizations are looking for an opportunity to advance and show their stuff. But too often they are either overlooked or ignored simply because they are already there. In other words, they are taken for granted when they could be resources of solid advice and
Our shortsightedness allows many consultants to make fortunes because they are called into situations where management doesn't trust the current staff or ignores the wealth of talent already on the premises.
Over the years I have been guilty of thinking that somebody from the "outside" would be able to do things better, whether it was selling something or putting together a strategic plan.
Too often this is an expensive waste of time when we are surrounded by good people who are loyal and bright and only too willing to share their insights and knowledge--at no cost. In short, there's gold in our own backyards.
It's easy to excuse our failure in light of our busy schedules. As a result, we overlook our colleagues and their needs and wants. In doing so, however, we're forgetting that which is so vital to the success and growth of any organization--mentoring. Our colleagues could gain so much from our coaching, whether it's showing new people the ropes, helping them learn how to work a certain system or giving them insights into the mission of the company.
Not having enough time isn't always the issue, however. It's a lack of willingness to take risks with individuals, to give them the opportunity to flounder and learn from their mistakes. That takes maturity, and it takes courage. Unfortunately, too many managers are so insecure about their own talents that they aren't willing to share their power and influence with their colleagues. As a result, morale suffers and quality people leave.
Mitchell Fromstein, the chairman emeritus of Milwaukee-based Manpower, suggests taking an inventory of your people and their talent so that when opportunity knocks you have some idea of who has what qualifications. "Through working with people, observing them, and talking to them in their work environment rather than your office, you get a sense not only of what they are doing in the present but what they are capable of doing," he recently told Wall Street Journalcolumnist Carol Hymowitz.
In the same article, Susan Grimes, publisher of Allure magazine, says, "If people are encouraged to be smart, you find that many who are labeled average can do a lot better than average."
Not long ago, the philosophy of walk-around management was extolled in business schools and management books. Good managers do this simply to let their colleagues know they care and are interested in the work they are doing. Unless workers are satisfied with the way they are treated, productivity suffers and problems follow. Giving people hope and the opportunity to advance is one way of building morale.
As leaders, our main goal should be to avoid that which destroys trust and confidence. One thing I've learned over the years is that nothing can be more damaging to an organization than taking people for granted. That is the biggest management sin of all.
Charles S. Lauer