Ep105: It's Bigger than the Job Description

26 minutes

There’s the part of the job that is in the job description and the part that is harder to define, but typically just as (if not more) valuable. This amorphous magic that someone brings to the work they do is hard to hire for and often, completely irreplaceable. Yet it can be considered superfluous. Why is that? Let’s discuss in this episode. 

Why is that important for business? 

There are people in our businesses who simply make things better. They may or may not excel at the specific tasks they were hired for, but they bring something intangible to their work that is often even more valuable. They create a role in the business that is completely “them-shaped”. And though a business might not hire specifically for that skill set, once it is discovered, it is difficult to lose. 

Like a great team player on the basketball court (for example, Shane Battier https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shane_Battier), these people position themselves to make everyone around them better. Or, like BASF said in their marketing campaigns: "We don't make a lot of the products you buy. We make a lot of the products you buy better". (https://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/26/business/media/a-campaign-for-basf.html) It isn’t boxes they are checking; they are creating value no one even knew was needed. 

So why don’t we value these indescribable but irreplaceable skills? Why is there such hesitation to value – on its own merits - the indistinct egg white, not just the more obvious egg yolk, of the work we do? 

Our organizations desperately need these skills, but we don’t even know they exist or that we need them. It becomes, instead of a hiring challenge, a matter of encouraging staff and employees to grow the things they are uniquely good at. The less room there is to stray from the job description, the more difficult it is to give this hard-to-define gift to the organization. The more unforgiving a system or process is, the less room there is for this egg white.

We want (and to a large degree need) things to be systematized and to have clear roles and responsibilities. But it is equally important to reveal and support people’s individual magic sauce if we want to thrive. We must cultivate a culture of communication, so it comes to our attention when someone has these unique but amorphous skills. 

Because we can’t just eat egg yolks. 

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