For Sufficiently Large Values of 1

joe —  Tue 28-Dec-10 — 4 Comments
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Email
  • RSS
  • PDF
  • Add to favorites

Sidney Crosby.pngDid you know that Pittsburgh Penguins hockey star Sidney Crosby is one of the few players in the league that increases the average goals per game for those on his line no matter what line he plays with? Did you also know that the average goals per game of players on his former line decrease when he moves to another?

Lest you think he is just a great assists guy keep in mind that he currently leads the NHL in goals.

Simply put, Sidney makes those around him better. It’s a real life example of the old equation 1+1=3.

People like Sidney are extremely valuable for a number of reasons. First, they make everyone better than they were. Most importantly, people want to work with them because of this despite any personality Hockey Pope.pngquirks they might have.

How many people do you know like that? Would you know how to measure that? Do you reward that?

I had the fortune of working with a guy that was known to be pretty frank and open about his opinions sometimes on the border of being rude. Others outside the team would say “Geez what a pain in the neck” usually substituting a different part of the anatomy. Those that had a chance to work with him for more than a few months would say, “You were right, Mike rocks (but he is still a pain in the neck).”

Over the first few years at our company I noticed that it always seemed that Mike’s programs really took off when he joined and then stayed successful after he moved on. Mike had an incredible ability to bring energy to stagnant programs and improve his co-workers to a degree that they maintained that level even when he wasn’t there. This happened time and again. He was a natural catalyst.
Catalyst.jpg

People that never worked with Mike weren’t sure that they would want to and those that did regularly asked to join his team or have him join theirs.

1 and 1 make 3.pngMike was a Sidney except better – his affect lasted longer than him. He didn’t come in, score a lot of goals, and then leave. He came in, scored a lot of goals, got others to score a lot more goals and then left, removing only his own goal contribution.

I have known several Mikes over the years and many that are close. I have often told him that if I ever started my own company that he’d be the first one I’d come after. It isn’t only because of Mike’s individual contribution – I know a lot of equally great developers. I want him because of what happens to everyone else.

Once again…

How many people do you know like that? Would you know how to measure that? Do you reward that?

Then ask one more question. Am I like that?

Today’s Question

What things do you do with your peers to help make them better at what they do?

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Email
  • RSS
  • Print
  • Add to favorites
  • http://www.andrewfuqua.com Andrew Fuqua

    I know at least a couple. I don’t know how to quantify that, but I know it when I see it.

    I attempt to reward that with “autonomy, mastery and purpose”. I try very hard to not take their empowerment away, but to clear the way so they can shine. That’s all the reward most of of us want, in my opinion (that is, once money and environmental factors are no longer the issue).

    • http://thestrandedstarfish.com Joe Kleinwaechter

      I love Drive!

      I think it’s sometimes hard to know what to clear away. I once had a guy who got so angry over all of the “idiots” that bothered him everyday. When I managed to get most of these interactions out of his daily work like his productivity fell to zero. The energy created by his frustration caused him to get things done. When that was gone he lost his energy. Odd.

  • Stephen Chasko

    I currently work with Mike and would agree he is a pain in the neck. Of course, he is a high performer. But his ego is already inflated so articles like this may not necessary provide the intended benefit – at least for my organization.

    In terms of hiring and identifying high performers, the effort required seems understated. The statistical measurement is particularly misleading. At least in terms of engineering.

    Mike is a good example of the difficulty related to this problem. Often, there are conflicting goals within an organization – such as tactical versus strategic. When a “take charge” high performer does whatever it takes to achieve a tactical goal. It can work against strategic goals. In some organizations, this is working against the business interests of the organization.

    Being able to operate organizationally is the more interesting trait. For engineers, this is a natural consequence of our desire to work ourselves out of our current job. Creating automation and process systems that ensure organizational goals are met efficiently without our presence. Allowing us to work on new and more interesting problems.

    Finding problem solvers such as Mike who do not make themselves critical path is a reasonable goal. And following an old corporate motto – “If everything depends on one man, fire them!”

    • http://thestrandedstarfish.com Joe Kleinwaechter

      Good stuff, Stephen. You’ve obviously thought a lot about this.
      Even though Mike is a “take charge” kind of guy that isn’t what makes him special – actually that can sometimes get in the way as you point out. It’s that others become better. That’s strategic.

      Love the work yourself out of a job mindset!