A good manager, might.
Jack of all trades, master of none
Although an employee might be able to complete work in an area she has recently been cross trained in, there is a possibility that the position isn’t right for her. The Gallup writers of First, Break All The Rules tell the story of a hotel that experimented with cross-training all employees so that each employee was able to complete every task, while also blending the roles of employees so that anyone was allowed to do any task. In theory, this might have sounded amazing – but in practice, it was a completely different story. Gallup put it this way in the book:
“The employees liked the idea of supporting one another, as all great hotel employees do, but the team structure threw them into confusion. The best housekeepers didn’t want to become front-desk clerks. They liked housekeeping. Front-desk clerks didn’t like table serving. And the table servers, looking up from their own troubles behind the reception desk, didn’t appreciate the mess the front-desk clerks were making of their precious restaurant.”
As we can clearly see, this is not a situation that any manager wants to be involved in. An initial plan to broaden responsibilities through cross-training while blending individual roles together resulted in dissatisfied employees and even chaos. So what’s the better way?
Specialization and a role for every team member
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that cross training is important and valuable – it’s just when we decide to abolish or lower individual roles that we get into trouble. Imagine in the story above if the house keepers were trained on how to operate the front desk, but were only asked to work this responsibility once in a blue moon. They were still primarily housekeepers. By keeping this identity they would still be able to do what they did best. It’s when you take away someone’s individual role that trouble can start to brew. An employee without an identity is like a company without a mission – confused, inefficient, and frustrating.
Think for a moment about the role you play at your job. You likely have at least one particular thing that you can put your finger on and say “this is what I enjoy most about my job.” Maybe it’s speaking with customers. Or maybe it’s the satisfaction that comes from solving complex problems. Either way, there’s something that you do best, and the best managers will recognize and harness your “super power.” Each of us has a super power! You may remember in my previous blog post titled 12 Questions to (Honestly) Ask Your Employees that I presented a list of 12 telling questions that we need to ask our employees. Number three on the list was “At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.” This was ranked by Gallup as the third most important statement that employees should say “yes” to – and by no accident. It’s only possible to do what you do best if you aren’t constantly burdened with the responsibility to do, well, what you don’t enjoy doing. This confirms the validity and importance of specialization in the workplace and the need for roles and individual responsibilities.
So let me ask you – what’s your super power? When someone appreciates you for that skill that you do better than anyone else, what is it? Comment below!
Clifton, Don. (2010). First, Break All The Rules. New York, NY: Gallup Press.