Filling The Bottom To Make Room For Movement To The Top


It’s a little bit of a gimmick when you see senior executives pulling espresso shots behind the counter at Starbucks or having Michael Dell taking customer service calls from a cubicle at the Dell help center. But it does give a boost to morale to see the upper echelon at least have some working knowledge of what it takes to slug it out in the trenches every day.

Now here’s a question to think about: do your senior leaders need to have a mastery of the jobs that those that report to them perform every day? The obvious answer to that question is no. But the snarky and the smart answers to that question is, “Isn’t that why they have you there in the first place?”

I made up a fable from bits and pieces of stories I have heard over the years about a janitor in a company with the right amount of corporate experience and knowledge that when the executive board stumbles upon his existence, they immediately plug him into their vacant CEO position, only to demote him back to janitor the next day after company wide complaints of the waste paper baskets not getting emptied as quickly as before.

The moral of the story is that sometimes it is easier to find a boss than a worker bee, and the value of either may not be properly weighed. The point of the story, and overall point of this post, is that you can’t have any logical upward movement inside of your organization if you can not fill the lower level positions and responsibilities that are left vacant.

This goes a step beyond the adage that indispensable employees are the last ones to get the promotions and growth opportunities because the company would literally fall apart if they were to leave their positions. This actually is meant to speak to stagnate growth at both end of the spectrum: cushy executives whose fear of innovation and mobility crush any hope of a natural progression and the failure to hire enough talented new prospects willing to go through the attrition process at your company.


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