By Jim Annis, CEO
Imagine a support group with the following characters: an 11-month old baby, an 11-month old "puppy" and an 11-month old aquarium with several fish, some dead and some alive. They all sit in a back storage room, abandoned by their human "parents." The conversation goes something like this:
Baby (to the puppy): "When was the last time you were fed?"
Puppy: "It has been so long that the fish are looking pretty tasty."
Baby (to fish): "What about you guys?"
Fish (in unison): "You know how we are. We can survive a long time ... but the truth is there were 10 of us last month ... only 5 left. I'll leave the rest to your imagination."
Baby (to the group as he sighs): All of us were Bright Shiny Objects (BSOs) at one time. I was an only child. Life was pretty good until my "surprise" little sister came along. I wish she would go away, at least for a little while. I remember being happy and loved ... don't you?
BSOs come in many forms. Employees – much like babies, puppies and aquariums – are fun when they are new; then ... something happens. Babies become lifelong connections with lots of ups and downs, joys and heartaches. They give and receive love and can enrich your lives. Puppies are companions for over a dozen years and need lots of care, especially in the early months. They are loyal, stand by your side and give you unconditional love whether you deserve it or not. Aquariums are pretty to look at but require work from day one. You cannot take them with you and you cannot leave them alone.
Admit it: Employees possess many of these same qualities. Let's say you have an employee who has been doing the same job for 15 years. Is that person really doing the job they should? Have you appreciated/ignored their full potential? Who will look at their role with fresh eyes if they don't know how? Worse yet, maybe they can but you've abandoned them for another BSO? How can we teach them to embrace change on all kinds of levels so that they can remain relevant long-term?
As you get a few more gray hairs, you know how much work a BSO project entails and then declare, "I am not willing to do that." It's just like having an aquarium. You did it. You learned. It was great because of "this" and sucked eggs because of "that." You know for sure that you do not want to repeat "that."
The CEO/BSO Relationship
Innovation is one of my six roles as CEO. BSOs spur positive change. They advance things like thought, commitment and action. Developing a BSO litmus test is crucial. Is it your strategic plan? An innovation committee?
As an employer, you have a responsibility to know what you are taking on before you commit. Sometimes things are bigger, more time-intensive and costly than they first appear. Sometimes the rewards are greater than expected. Employees require a level of your continued devotion.
Do you have a BSO support group happening behind the scenes in your workplace?
Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Applied's COO, contributed to this article.
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