Friday, March 6, 2009

Charlie’s Back - Great leaders know great teammates

Sometimes the most amazing professionals we get the opportunity to work with during a career were not ones we recruited, hired and selected. Sometimes they come with the teams we inherit. Charlie came to our team as a post merger consolidation and things were never the same. Charlie lifted everyone’s performance because her role was to represent all of us in so many ways. If something went perfect, odds are Charlie had a hand in it.

Unfortunately, Charlie moved into retirement-land a few years back, and we all overcame her absence. Fortunately, Charlie kept all skills current and learned new ones. If you noticed an improvement in the quality of the editing on this blog, guess what? Charlie is all over it! When the best offers to help, let them help. Engage them in the decisions. Ask their opinions. Trust their insights. Understand the gift you are presented.

Are you appreciating your gifts? As a leader, do you really value your Charlie?


Anonymous said...

Charlie's are an absolute gift to teams (my current Charlie is actually an Annie, but no matter!). Just a couple of notes of caution in dealing with Charlie:

1. Don't let Charlie's performance get damaged by overload. The line "if something went perfect" is a telling one - when you have a Charlie available, there is a danger that the number of projects that "must go perfect" and therefore "need Charlie" gradually increases, until Charlie is buried, demoralised and unable to deliver.

2. Don't stunt Charlie's growth. Charlie's perceived critical contribution to the team leads to fiercely guarding him/her as a resource. You need to be generous with Charlie's contribution to the wider business - for the sake of the business, and for Charlie's development.

3. Don't forget about the apprentice Charlies. When you know that Charlie is ultra-reliable, the temptation is to put everything critical in their safe hands (as in (1)). You have to risk projects in other hands to develop the Charlies of the future, even at the risk of a lesser delivery this time round.

Scooterrocks said...

In regards to Stuart's response about Charlie's growth. Don't forget Charlie's aspirations might eventually lie outside of Charlie's current boss. Charlie might one day come to you with another opportunity in mind. The boss should be grateful for their time together and support and offer genuine mentorship that's within the best interests of the business and Charlie. It might be difficult and maybe selfish to want to keep Charlie in place...but as we all know the best satisfaction for bosses is growing their "players" and watching them prosper, succeed and get promoted.

John--thanks for the support!

Anonymous said...

"I agree that we need to value our Charlies. However, we need to value everyone and treat them as if they are valued. Our traditional top-down command and control approach to managing people by its very nature demotivates and demoralizes people. It leads them to the same poor performance that top-down supporters contend it is designed to limit. Leadership is a science, not an art. People can be led to be sullen, uncommitted, resistant to change, irresponsible, disrespectful, with low morale, etcetera or they can be led to be highly motivated, committed, responsible, respectful, eager to embrace worthwhile change, with high morale and a strong sense of ownership. The choice is up to the appointed leadership because 95% of their people are conformists more or less who will conform to the boss' leadership, whether the boss likes it or not. Leading in the right direction can create a lot of Charlies. That is what I learned to do about two-thirds of the way through my 34 years of managing people. It was managerial heaven with the vast majority of my people literally loving to come to work and able to easily blow away competitors. Best regards, Ben"

Anonymous said...

"Excellent point and well said."

Anonymous said...

"That's so heartening, I must say! It is so true that many a times, we're lost to the capabilities of others around us because we're so busy defending our domain expertise. Outsourcing Industry Analyst, Deborah Kops has contributed an insightful article about the importance of building capabilities in order to combat the onslaught of ‘change’ in organizations. Points out a significant difference between competency (domain expertise) and capability. Building capabilities internally is of paramount importance in order to achieve sustainable benefits. Read the article at:[

Anonymous said...

"I think recognition is a challenge today in our business environment. I work in Accounting. We are encouraged to work as a team, but recognizing that person who always goes above and beyond can make that person look like a "teacher's pet". It is important to recognize everyone for their hard work and effort, but some people are always looking at others with a "why not me" attitude. I am a firm believer of recognition, but its a challenge to show fairness and not appear to show favoritism."

Anonymous said...

"@ Dawn: I think that your views reveal a mindset that is common among my generation (the one between Gen X and Gen Y -- I'm 31). During our childhoods, we were the ones who got trophies and ribbons for *trying*. While it's great to encourage people just for trying, I think it creates a false expectation of recognition for a job attempted, not a job well done. In my professional experience there were always a few employees wondering why they were not recognized for their work, while another group of employees seemed to get recognized frequently. The difference was in performance; the first group was always complaining about what was wrong with the particular project or program, whereas the second group always *acknowledged* what was wrong while continuing to work to *solve* those problems. Recognition for hard work and tireless effort is required. We must also resist the "fairness" temptation to also reward those who simply want to be recognized for showing up for work every day."

GFreak said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GFreak said...

I went to the campus library yesterday, and while walking to the circulation desk I noticed a book called The Trophy Kids Grow Up by Ron Alsop. It talks a lot about "the millenials" as a generation just starting to enter the workforce. Of particular interest to me was Chapter 5: "How Am I Doing", which confirmed some of the observations I made in my previous post but also added some new information.

For those of you interested in the new "Gen Why" or "Gen Y" workforce, you may wish to check it out.

Also, Stuart's comment is right on the money!

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