Asian Carp and a Company’s Fragile Ecosystem

The workplace is a fragile ecosystem.  Interdependency abounds.  The actions (or inactions) of one effect those of many.  Energy levels ebb and flow based on the collective contributions of everyone.  Moods are contagious.  Optimal performance is possible only when each of its components are humming along.  And as with most ecosystems, the introduction of a foreign body can bring it to its knees.  And this is why we HR ecologists need to be on the look out for and highly sensitive to impostors

Here’s an example:  Have you ever been with a company that promotes someone to a leadership position based primarily on their success as an operator yet fails to recognize that the shortcomings of that someone as a leader (as a visionary, as a motivator, as a communicator, as a developer) might throw everything else into a tailspin?  This is not much different than when which-ever-dumb-ass catfish farmer thought it was a good idea to introduce Asian Carp into their ponds to help eat up the algae.  Now those little (big) beasts have escaped and are basically threatening to eat up far more than green slime in the Great Lakes.  That farmer recognized the potential (selfish) benefits of the carp, but failed to consider its potential risks.  Good operators usually get noticed because they understand the business and they are good at producing results – measurable, tangible results.  But unless you’re from an organization that rocks in the realm of human capital, chances are that operator hasn’t been really scrutinized for his/her leadership skills.  It’s easy to think they’ll be good leaders; after all, they had to manage people to produce those results.  And sometimes others will suggest that the operations skills are more important and they will learn or grow to acquire the leadership skills.  WRONG!  An organization will always gain more from great leaders who are marginal operators then they will from marginal leaders who are great operators.  This can not be refuted…I am here to tell you.

I know a Senior Exec who is the best damn operator in the world, can juggle multiple balls like he is in Cirque du Soleil, and could probably get a job as an air traffic controller at the busiest of airports.  And employees love him for that.  But never have they grown to recognize that person as a leader.  Rather, they see him as that air traffic controller…just a highly paid one.  So the employer isn’t getting the bang for their buck, the employees are demoralized, that person’s peers have trouble accepting him, and the integrity of the career path at this employer is severly compromised.  Where was the HR person in all of that?  Well that’s another story, but I’d say he missed his opportunity – his obligation even - to protect that fragile ecosystem.   There are very few other people in the organization who are in a position to do that more effectively than you.  Most people won’t jump in even if they have the chance.  ”Having a seat at the table” doesn’t always mean you get to participate in lofty strategic discussions.  It means you have to take a stand for what ultimately you believe is best for the organization and its ecosystem.  If you don’t, you’ll have Asian Carp flying around your office smacking people in the head and inflicting their invasive nature on everyone.  And while amusing, it won’t be pretty for long…

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One Response to Asian Carp and a Company’s Fragile Ecosystem
  1. SAMANWAYA BILAS SENGUPTA
    May 28, 2010 | 12:48 am

    Dear Charlie,

    Absolutely to the point and an urgent work area. Would like to hear more from you.

    Warm regards,

    Samanwaya

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