I have developed an addiction to The West Wing. For anyone who isn’t familiar with that title, it was a fictional show about the inner workings of the White House. It’s a great show but that isn’t the point. There is one professional relationship highlighted which really struck a cord with me and was the impetus for this post.
Josh Lyman is the Deputy Chief of Staff and his Executive Assistant is Donna Moss. Donna is great at her job—amazing in fact. She can do so much more and Josh knows it. However, he is comfortable with her as his assistant so he never promotes her or pushes her to do anything more. Eventually, Donna realizes her potential and quits to become a major player in a national campaign. In a twist of fate that could only happen on TV, Josh ended up working for her opponent.
Some people are just good at what they do. They have found their niche and that is fantastic. Other people are good at what they do but can do so much more. It is up to you as a leader to find those people, foster their talents, and help them to grow. They may not even realize that they are smarter than their job. It is up to you to reassure them. If Josh had pushed Donna to achieve more, he probably would have been able to keep her on his side of the race.
Don’t be Josh. When you find team member who is employed below their potential, pull them up the ladder and, if the time comes, push them over you. When they have reached the summit of what is possible in your organization, encourage them to find a new mountain. Not everyone is destined for greatness but everyone deserves to reach their full potential. You can find another assistant. Help your Donna to reach her full potential.
Don't Be a Greedy Leader