Saturday, May 29, 2010

Big Sky

“She was a big Star at the night of Joe's bar where
She sang karaoke every night.”

- Kenny Chesney

It’s Saturday morning and I’m working on my story for the month.

It’s a perfect foggy grey morning in the Northwest, and Kenny Chesney, my favorite storyteller, is singing through my computer speakers. Hot coffee, a sleepy cat on my lap, a candle called “Insight” by my computer and the mood is just right for writing. Or, so I’d say if I were writing a country song.

Still— today, I struggle for words.

Something is not quite right and I’m digging for the words to describe why.

I’ve been hired by a company to help them develop their high potentials— the people they call Stars. I am to come up with a way to identify Stars and a plan to develop them. Now, I’m not challenged to identify Stars. Nor, am I struggling with a way to develop them. My challenge is that less than ten percent of the workforce is allowed to be called…. Stars.

What seems odd to me just now is that no one questions that this is strange.

Popular convention says that there are a limited number of individuals in an organization who are the superkeepers. They are the fast-trackers— those ambitious, articulate and advanced-degreed individuals who are most likely to end up in the executive suite. These are the corporate Stars, and they will receive the investment of time, money and attention.

While I love to invest in and develop people, I am feeling disappointed because it means that the company probably won’t be investing in people like Bill.

In my book, Bill is a Star. Bill is The Facilities Guy, or at least that’s what he calls himself. On my second day of work, with a list of to-do’s to be done in my little office cube, Bill stopped by my office just to see how I was settling in. “How are you doing, young lady?”

I said that all was well and mentioned that I needed to move my computer over to the other side of the office, but was not looking forward to fiddling with all of the cables. Bill said, “Well, let’s do it now!” In the process of moving my computer, Bill noticed that I needed a mouse pad. He asked me what color I’d prefer and promptly delivered one, in my favorite color, to me later that afternoon.

It’s not that Bill was doing something special just for me. Bill treats everyone at our company this way— not just ten percent of the people.

Bill loves his job. When he talks about his work, his personality lights up and you can’t resist his infectious enthusiasm. Bill likes the fact that he gets to work with everyone. He likes that he can make someone’s day just by bringing them a mouse pad or fixing their phone. And, while he’s doing that, he invests time in people by getting to know them on a personal level. Bill has seen everyone’s family pictures on their desks. He knows the name of their spouse, their dog, what they had for lunch today and what they like to do on the weekend. And, of course, everyone knows Bill.

Think about it.

Bill probably has a better understanding of the people in the organization than the CEO does.

Bill has invested in everyone at work; not because he has to, but because he wants to. While he doesn’t have a desire to work in the executive suite, he’s still a Star and I think we would be wise to invest in him. We don’t need to put him on a track to the executive suite, but I think it is important not to be blind to all that he brings to the organization. After all, he’s a big Star.

Two days later and back at work, it seems my company agrees.

As it turns out, the company has, in fact, invested in Bill. In one month, Bill, who has only been as far as Indiana, will fly to Paris on company business, to train our new employees in France how to use the new phone system! Knowing Bill, he’ll quickly get everyone up-to-speed on how to use the phones; and, in the process he will invest his time and interest in twenty new friends— because that’s just the way the Stars do it.

Satisfied with this discovery, I headed out for a walk this evening. The morning fog had long since burned off, and I looked up at the sky where it was clear and black and big enough for ten billion twinkling Stars.

© 2005-2010 Lisa Ann Edwards

p.s. For those of you who I know will ask, yes, I wrote this years ago, and no, I don't really listen to country music, but this song happened to be playing, the morning I wrote this and it seemed to spark my imagination!!! ;-)

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