By Chally Kacelnik
I’ve had the experience of walking into an organisation and, pretty quickly, being told the “who’s who”. That person? She’s been picked for success, already chosen to go far. There’s a sinking sense of resignation that accompanies these statements. The speakers know themselves to not be one of the chosen, and there’s not a lot they can do to progress or get recognition if everything has been pre-determined.
It’s not great for the unrecognised people, but it’s also an unhelpful dynamic for the organisation more broadly. People sometimes stop trying, whether because everything has been laid out for them or because there’s nothing to look forward to. The golden few are often resented and sometimes undermined. Frankly, it can be worse when this isn’t the dynamic: we all know that stories of famous, singular innovators and iconoclasts tend to mask a lot of unacknowledged labour by others behind the scenes.
In short, organisations that tend to focus on a golden few tend towards terrible dynamics. If this is happening for your organisation, reorient yourselves to an ethic of reciprocity. Mutuality, respect, and a recognition that everyone has value need to be borne out in how you organise work. I promise you that people are keenly aware when this is not borne not.
Does this mean not recognising potential and achievement? No. It means opening possibilities up to everyone really explicitly. One tool we use with our clients is the development of a capability framework, which links expectations of people at a particular organisational level really specifically back to the organisational values and strategic goals. This becomes a good chunk of the basis for individuals’ personal development plans, position descriptions, recruitment assessment, and training needs analyses. It’s consistent, clear, and available to everyone, helping people to see the fair and consistent basis by which they can progress.
If you’re experiencing this dynamic in your organisation, it’s also time to look at whether your work is really oriented to your organisational goals. An organisation with clear justification that the right people are doing the right work in the right environment with the right resources is an organisation in which people understand the value of their work as it relates to the work of others and the organisational objectives.
Everyone has something to contribute. Give them the chance to prove it.