As soon as you label something you create a boundary for it. This is neither good nor bad, but factual. If you ask someone for a container they may bring you one of many types of items that could be considered a container. A cup, bowl, pan, bucket, retainment pond, a lake, the ocean. All of these either contain something or can contain something but they are all different and have different applications and purposes. Once we put a label or name on something, it takes a definition in our mind. This definition has boundaries and limits. Some things never expand past their boundaries, while other boundaries are only temporary. As a leader, this is an important principle to understand as we work within the HR world of job descriptions and titles.

If there is one thing that will really turn me off at work it is when someone treats the departmental administrative assistant with less respect than any of the leaders in the department. The admin assistant could be dressed nice, well spoken, respectful, and respectable, but is treated almost with distaste by some who label them insignificant because of their title. A title is just like a label, similar to the container example. A title can be an analyst, team lead, manager, director, or c-level. These titles immediately put boundaries around people and can limit them. In truth, it takes many individuals in many roles to make a company successful. Some people are gifted in other ways than other people and as they grow in their gifting they end up in roles in an organization. How can we as leaders help people continue to grow their gifts versus slapping a label on them and define their limitations?

There are many ways to do this but the most important is to remove the threat. I don’t mean to remove the person, I mean to remove the idea that someone’s gifts threaten your position, or anyone’s position on your team. In my experience, this concept of threat is the biggest reason some leaders put a tight lid on team members potential. When someone feels threatened, they defend and protect their territory. This defensive posture, sometimes masked as competition, will be a huge de-motivating factor in your culture. As a leader, one of your primary jobs is to ensure this is addressed. “Why do you feel threatened? We are all trying to work together to advance the company. You are awesome and gifted and we are glad you are part of the team.” That may not be exactly what you could say, but address the attitude right away and kill that negative spirit of being threatened by someone else’s gifts and success. If threat is in the air of your environment, then you will have a threatening environment versus a nurturing and growing one.

You may not control the whole environment at work, but you control your immediate area and your attitude. I have yet to hear of a leader who promoted someone so much that they put themselves out of a job. When you find talent on your team, regardless of their title, lift them up as high as you can and let them excel at what they do best. If by some very strange set of circumstances, you find yourself out of a job because you hired and trained and provided opportunity for someone who surpassed you, you will be labeled as a genius. Put that on your resume and see how high you will fly!


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