Who's on your bench?
Randy, procurement manager for a food brokerage company in Washington, told Session 4 of the Leadership Development Lab:
"About three years ago, my supervisor called me into his office. Then he asked me to 'close the door'. This was a first. I didn't know what to think. Over the next several minutes, we discussed where my career had taken me, the progress I had made, and where I wanted to go. Then, to my surprise, he challenged me to change direction and take a different career path. He asked me to leave behind the part of my career that I had spent the past twelve years developing. I toiled all weekend, talked to my wife, friends, and myself about this departure in my career path. By Sunday afternoon I had made my decision and I slept very well that night. On Monday morning, I told my supervisor that I wanted the new change and challenge. I excelled in my new position as frozen buyer, and was promoted to Inventory Analyst fairly quickly. This last February, I was promoted to Procurement Manager. I am now very proud to pass out my new business cards. My new business cards are my ‘trophy' that represents an achievement that I am very proud of. I pass them out to vendors, customers, and other associates with great pride!
"The lesson I learned from this experience is that when I take the risk of responding to the challenges life brings me, I can succeed. The action I call you to take is to challenge yourself, get outside of your comfort zone, and look for opportunities to explore your great beyond, your un-comfort zone. Try something more, something new, something different. The benefit you will gain is you will be more enthusiastic about your life and achieve things that in your
time of thinking small you couldn't have even imagined."
Part of what I like about this story is that his manager saw in Randy more potential than Randy saw in himself. This empowering leader was willing, in a way, go out on a limb for his team member. He was taking a risk himself by challenging Randy to try something new, something different, and through the process, he filled a position with a winner, built his bench. More importantly in some ways, he helped a team member realize his potential. He helped an associate have the experience of achievement and fulfillment that Randy otherwise may never have known.
I seldom come across a company that is doing an adequate job of developing a bench. More often, I find companies that are scrambling around trying to build a bench, trying to find qualified people for middle and senior management positions. Sometimes managers complain that they can't find any good people. Well, maybe they're right; maybe they can't find any good people. Maybe they've forgotten that part of their job is to develop good people, build people, and make them successful.