Leadership for Life – Who is Essential?

By on January 15, 2014
Who is Essential?

Our Leadership experts will be sharing tips and insights for everyone, at any station in life, at both home and work. Leadership for Life – the skills you embrace represent who you really are at all times.

It’s been snowing and freezing over much of the country these last few weeks, and the highlight of the day is to watch the crawl under the screen on TV news showing the closing of schools and other institutions because of the weather. The news reports often mention that “nonessential” personnel are furloughed at various places.

I wonder who is considered “nonessential” and why they still are employed. Is the guy who cleans the toilets in the building you work in considered essential or not? Is there some recorded definition in every business or other organization of what is considered essential and nonessential? I’d be interested in seeing the criteria for those designations.

The fact is that pretty much everyone who works is in an essential position. The Question that you can ask to decide if a worker is essential or nonessential is, “What problem(s) would go unsolved if that position weren’t filled?” The answer to The Question will help you determine whether a job/person is essential or not. Astute observers will note that the answer to The Question often bypasses the job title or job description, which are static representations that deal with routine situations, and often do not deal with the unpredictable nature of real life.

Leaders should be asking themselves The Question at least 3-4 times a year, as a way of keeping the organization responsive to changing conditions. When a vacancy does occur, The Question will help decide whether the position should be filled, and with what skills. It also wouldn’t hurt to be asking The Question in strategic planning meetings, as a way of looking ahead to what skills will be needed to execute strategies. Strategic planning used to come in five year cycles. With the pace of change these days, it’s more likely that strategic planning looks no further ahead than two or three years.

What tasks/skills/people are essential in your organization?

About Barry Schapiro

Barry is the Workforce Solutions Group Practice Leader for Leadership and Professional Development. His experience includes delivery and management of business training in a variety of industries, with specialties in leadership, team development, generational diversity, and customer service. Twitter

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