Monday, March 7, 2011

Recognise talent and help others to soar

Monday Starters - By Soo Ewe Jin

A FRIEND recently retired from an organisation which he has headed for the past 14 years. I remember those early days when he decided to leave the corporate world to venture into social work.

It was not easy fitting in initially, as he tried to bring in some semblance of order in an environment where the staff worked with passion despite the low salaries and still considered it a bonus to get a “nice warm feeling” at the end of the year.

One of his “achievements”, for want of better word, was the fact that he had 14 PAs working for him during his tenure.

So the immediate reaction must be, “what a horrible boss he must be to have so many changes of PAs.”

The fact of the matter is that all these PAs were groomed and then released to take on different positions within the organisation. He recognised talent and was not afraid to let them go.

Which was why they had plenty of good things to say about him at the farewell party.

As I reflect on this story, it dawns on me that there are many people in the working world who are often stuck in routine jobs who never seem to get a chance to break out and soar to greater heights.

Sometimes they may not have the confidence to tell their immediate superiors about their abilities. Sometimes it may be because their superiors simply will not let them go for fear that they may outshine them.

In the movie What Women Want (its Chinese remake recently released, starring Gong Li and Andy Lau) we have Erin the file girl played by Judy Greer who basically walks around carrying files from one person to another. Despite her talent, and her desire to apply for some internal positions that will make full use of her abilities, she is basically ignored.

Does this sound familiar?

I am sure you would also know of someone who feels unfulfilled in his job and has the potential to do so much if he was only given the chance. Do you just brush the request aside or are you prepared to listen to his dreams and help him along?

Another friend works in a company where anyone who is appointed to a senior position must have his designated successor within three months. It is a good way to force the person to quickly identify the talents under him and realise that in the real world, no one is really indispensible. I reckon a healthy dose of humility is good for the corporate soul.

In one of my earlier articles for this column I wrote about how in the various places I have worked, I have grown to appreciate the fact that the silent office clerk could well be a Lat in the making. Or that the person much maligned at the workplace would be so well loved as an angel by friends and neighbours.

I know of many workers who give of their time and their talent to worthy causes although this is often not reflected in their company records.

Any CEO should be proud of such staff, for they truly are the real ambassadors of the company.

Maybe it is good for those of us who have some form of managerial positions to look around and see if we can play a small part in making some people's dreams come true. For when they soar like eagles, we can truly be part of the ride.

Deputy executive editor Soo Ewe Jin would like to quote leadership guru Max De Pree who says, “We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.”

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