Monday, December 3, 2012

Are there superheroes hiding in your business?

Superhero Day by Notley
Superhero Day,
a photo by 
Notley on Flickr.
Superman didn't walk around the streets of Gotham City with cape fluttering in the breeze.  He didn't stop the average car driving down the street.  And while we don't know for certain, we certainly hope he didn't use his x-ray vision to see the same views that the airport scanners have seen.

Nope, Superman walked around as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for The Daily Planet.  His trademark handsomeness was obscured (only barely) by a pair of horn-rimmed glasses.  And he was self-effacing, almost shy, in his interaction with his boss.  Until the moment arrived when someone was in trouble.  And Clark slipped into the nearest phone booth (when they still had four walls and a door that closed!) and transformed into the caped crusader.

Do you have Superman working in your company?  Perhaps Wonder Woman, Batman, Supergirl or Spidey park their cars in the company lot.  How would you know about their superpowers if they were spending all day under cover, waiting for the need for their special skills to arise?  Could this be happening right now?  Could there be incredible resources in your workplace right now that you have not yet tapped?

If you are allowing your staff to go along doing the same tasks day after day incognito as Clark Kent does, here are some of the things that might be happening that you haven't discovered yet:

  • Wonder Woman might be using her extensive organizational skills in a local charitable organization in which she is the President.
  • Batman might be using his skills at training and encouragement coaching a youth soccer or lacrosse team.
  • Spiderman might be developing his athletic prowess by competing in Iron Man triathlons on the weekends, and doing high-intensity training in between.
  • Superman might be building tall buildings, exercising his mechanical abilities in the only venue in which he has full control - his own home-improvement projects.
Your employees are more than their job descriptions, and you may already be making a point to ask them about their families from time to time.  After all, their jobs are funding their family lives, and family problems can be some of their biggest distractions from full productivity.

But are you missing the conversations about their skills and interests beyond the ones that sync with their job descriptions?  Sam might be in a job in which he performs adequately, but could absolutely rock the house if you were to take advantage of the talents for which he currently has no workplace outlet.  Jane may be meeting standards in her role, but bored and contemplating moving to a job in another company where she can experience growth and progression.

You might be thinking, "The economy has been so bad - they're lucky to have jobs, and we're a good employer."  But consider this:  who are the employees who have the best opportunities to move on from your company to someplace else?  That's right.  The smart, productive ones who have eyes on the future and who are developing their skills.  And if you don't make use of their talents - including their superpowers - you stand to be left with a company full of sidekicks.


Scott Young said...

Good blog, it is almost painful to watch and see the abilities and talent that are within the company and the employer has absolutely no clue that all this potential exists. How do you get them to recognize it?

Julie Poland, certified business coach said...

Thanks for your comment, Scott. How you go about "getting them" to recognize it depends upon the role you have now, and upon their willingness to see.

If you are in a leadership role you have some latitude in providing assignments that will help employees to reveal and develop previously hidden superpowers. If your only responsibility is for your own performance and you have skills that your job is not currently tapping, you can ask your boss for a project, assignment, or additional responsibility. They can choose to say no, or they might be happy to see you taking initiative.

The best leaders know that they limit their own success when they miss opportunities to leverage all of the talents of the people that report to them.