A business leader once told me: “Doc, when someone leaves us, it’s like putting your hand into a bucket of water and grasping a handful. In a few seconds the water is level again and you hardly notice the difference.”
Was he right? Do we take much with us if we leave an organisation? Does it hurt them?
I think partly he was insulating himself a little from the loss of someone they valued. When four out of five of the top-tier left, it then became more of a significant loss.
A person’s contribution is rarely valued much, even after they leave. That’s not to say it is not valuable.
Someone I knew used to work hard and for long hours in one organisation. He resigned.
He must have wondered if they would miss him. We’ll probably never know, but he was not replaced.
I suppose the bottom line is: we are all expendable.
But from an organisation’s point of view I can’t help thinking that much talent is lost with hardly a second thought.
Much of what those people did will never be valued, never missed, because it was never measured.
We check stats on turnover, profit by sector, debtor recovery etc. etc.
We don’t consider all those careful hours of diligent effort looking after the customer, supporting the team and quietly showing up for work when everyone else is snowbound!
We don’t measure goodwill. It’s intangible, but real.
In a service business there are only two assets: people and reputation. It’s obvious that one is dependent on the other.
But in a strange quirk of human nature we have split out the essence of reputation and called it “brand”.
“Brand” becomes its own identity and we begin to believe all the hype we have created, as if the brand were independent of the people.
I once worked in a firm, let’s call it MF, short for medium firm. One of the criteria for promotion was: “loyalty to MF”.
But what is MF? Surely it’s just people. It can’t be anything else.
And that’s just it. Our firm is us. Ordinary, and sometimes very gifted people, just working together. So loyalty to the firm is loyalty to me and you. It has to be a two-way street.
So if he leaves, it really must matter?
Any attempt to diminish a person’s contribution diminishes all of us. Surely?