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Plug and Play People

Last week I was approached by two of our internal employees. They were excited and wanted to share with me a success story. So we sat down and had a quick chat in the lounge: coffee brewed, computers out, notepads open. The only problem was, by the end of the meeting I still hadn’t taken any notes. And to be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what I could take away from it all, and so I put off writing about it for a few days.


Essentially, one team had too much to do and another team had some capacity. A person usually too busy to ask for help became so busy, she didn’t have a choice. So she asked for help. And help came. It came in the form of someone who is very competent. Who does a great job. Someone who is well liked, well trusted, who is reliable and most importantly, someone who doesn’t need any additional training to get brought up to speed. So the person agreed and he was plugged into the project and the project played out as planned. The experiment worked: stress reduced, pressure relieved, people happy.


But can we just plug well-performers into new roles and projects and expect them to perform well? Is this how people are managed? Interchangeable resources. It is a hot topic at the moment. But the more we look at people as interchangeable and the more we view people as resources the more problems we will run into. As cliche as it sounds, people are people. And people are human. A lot of us can effectively do the same tasks but we all differ to varying degrees. And we all come with our own flair, our own set of skills, our own experience and our own way of doing things . We are not (yet) machines and there is (for now) only one of each of us.


If being good is being capable of being put in different situations with minimal training and performing well, then being great is having a company and a culture that ensures nobody is left behind. That everybody is in a position to do their best. It is about putting forth that extra energy and having that little bit of extra patience to develop everyone to their fullest potential. Not just supporting the strong while the weak get weaker. Even if this means spending that little extra time updating our old software when there is a new shiny system capable of running out of the box.


Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to take anything away from these two. They work hard and they both do an outstanding job. We had a great conversation and I love that I have the opportunity to sit and learn from people like them and to hear stories like these. And it is a success story in its own right indeed. Just maybe not in the way they intended. It tells me that teamwork doesn’t come from teams alone, but from within our company as a whole. It tells me that we know where our strengths and weaknesses lie, that we are transparent and that we aren’t afraid to ask for help. It tells me that we are ready and flexible to handle situations and that we take the time to celebrate our successes. It tells me we are human, that there are no shortcuts and that there is always room for improvement.

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