Archive for the ‘Global Leadership Trends’ Category

An Economist is Painting My House

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

What if you kept finding those quarters on the street, or kept winning those door prize contests?  Not once, but it kept happening.  Wouldn’t it be great to keep finding treasure?

I keep finding talent – unused talent.  In one more personal news flash that I’m not sure is clamoring out to anyone else but me, another highly qualified immigrant is “making it” by popping up in a place where those qualifications are underutilized and hidden.  A Peruvian economist and his systems engineer brother are painting and repairing my house.

And people just like them may be in your workplace.

Add Victor and Cesar to the Salvadoran business trainer sweeping the gym floor, the former deputy police chief landscaping a neighbor’s yard, the South American phlebotomist working at Staples, the Indian computer specialist selling women’s clothes, and the Guatemalan janitor at one of our most prestigious universities who had a business and managed people in his country.

Is anybody else noticing this phenomenon?  That is, that there are highly educated and trained people right under our noses who could contribute a whole lot more to our bottom lines and missions.

Are We Clueless?

I think we might be, but the bigger question is:  what could our businesses and agencies gain if we “clued in”?

Talent. We did focus groups at that hot shot university, and the janitor impressed me as much or more than the department heads.  His demeanor was perfect for someone who could lead and manage well – calm, strategic, and positive.  One of his ideas:  the university should inventory everyone’s skills – including the janitors – to find out the gold they had in a workforce they were already paying.  Not a bad idea in a down economy when you can’t afford to hire.

More and Better Ideas. The advantages of diversity for idea generation and results have been proven.* These folks bring us fresh perspective from having led people or solved complex problems in other countries.  And they’ve got a direct connection to their countrymen who are a growing segment of our employees and customers!

Unexpected Help. You might start talking to the people making salads in your restaurant, the janitors in your building, the tellers, the landscapers.  Think about it:  how does the role they are in influence how you approach these folks?  I’m finding some very bright folks –  better said wise folks –  pushing a broom.

We’re in a multicultural world – whether you’re in Dubuque or Dubai.  If your business is slow, or your ideas are stale, why not take a look around – right under your nose.  Do you have some leaders or some creative thoughts among employees whose talents are perhaps hidden by their roles or their language difference?

I can’t help thinking you might.  I’m meeting these folks all the time.

Let me know what happens.



*See the book The Difference, by Scott Page