“If you surround yourself with the smartest people you can find, people will think you’re a lot smarter than you are. Only insecure people think this works the other way.” – Noah Callahan-Bever
I don’t think it’s an outrageous statement to say that your business will go as far as your people will take it. Their talents, abilities, passions, etc., are what’s going to drive your success. Your job as the leader is to help channel those things in a positive direction and remove barriers from their path.
I would take that statement a step further. I think your business will go as far as your best people will take it. It isn’t that everyone else isn’t important or doesn’t matter. It’s that your best people are going to have passion and vision and ability that’s going to allow them to do things the others can’t or won’t do – the things that make the difference between being mediocre and being terrific.
So if that’s the case, why do so many businesses treat all their people the same? I’ve been involved in conversations about salaries and heard people say, “Well, Suzie is certainly one of the best people we have, but we can’t pay her much more than we pay Jim because they have the same job title and/or Jim’s been here longer.” So we don’t pay Suzie differently, we don’t give her different work, we don’t give her different opportunities.
The result is usually that either Suzie sinks down to Jim’s level, or more likely Suzie gets bored or disgusted and leaves. Then congratulations, you’ve treated everyone the same and now everyone is the same – mediocre.
So treat your stars like stars. Make a point to let them know how valuable they are. Make a point to understand what motivates them. Make a point to understand what their vision is for their own future. Make a point to clearly communicate to them how that vision fits in your organization.
If you treat your employees like they’re all the same, eventually everyone will sink to the lowest common denominator, either by poor performance or attrition. Don’t hold them back. Give them the opportunity and the desire to do the maximum they’re capable of – and enjoy the ride.