In team sports, I’m convinced that the most valuable players are not necessarily the best athletes or even the biggest scorers, but the ones who find ways to make the players around them better than they could otherwise be. I call these people “force multipliers.”
Running a retail, wholesale, or manufacturing business is a “team sport,” even if one person owns it outright. After all, no man, and no business, is an island.
Even if you’re not as old as me or haven’t worked for as many different employers as me, I bet you’ve had the following experience.
The business has a perceived “superstar” — someone who sells more than anyone else or wins more awards than anyone else or takes more credit than anyone else. That person gets a lot of accolades and recognition for his or her efforts … and may deserve every one of them.
But often that superstar works in a bubble or is like the hub of a wheel — served by the spokes and very much dependent upon them.
If you work at a job long enough, and pay attention close enough, you’ll often see that the superstar is not really the most valuable player. He or she is just the one in the spotlight, the one using up a lot of resources, the one being served by the other players, and the one being measured by the metrics that are the easiest to follow.
In baseball — our greatest “stat” sport — home run hitters and strikeout pitchers get the most attention. They’re flashy like that … and terrifically valuable. But it means that stellar defensive players and players with high on-base percentages are often overlooked, even though they may contribute more to the overall success of the team.
If you’re really into baseball analytics, you can use methodologies like WAR (wins against replacement) or Win Shares to evaluate the relative contribution of players irrespective of position or even era. It’s not that easy in the workplace.
In the workplace, a calculator may not be much help in assessing the true contribution of your most valuable player, but it would be great if all we needed to make that determination was some kind of mathematical formula.
Instead, we must truly pay attention to who’s making everyone around them better, who’s lubricating the processes, who’s making everyone else’s job easier, and who’s setting the table for the people getting the glory. As often as not, that person does not have “superstar” status, but they’re just as valuable as the person getting the glory … maybe more valuable.
I’m not suggesting we stop lauding our superstars, but I am recommending that we all look very hard at those who play key roles in areas that are too often in the shadows.
It’s easy to point to someone in a revenue center and say that they’re making a key difference, but what about the person in the cost center who’s found ways to save money or who stokes the fire of the revenue center? Their contribution may be just as great, if not greater.
Benjamin Franklin told us that “a penny saved is a penny earned,” but it goes much farther than that. Hopefully, we are surrounded by people in our homes and in our jobs who find ways to make our lives and our work better, easier, faster, simpler. Too often these contributions are difficult or even impossible to quantify. And when that’s true, it often means that these contributions go unrewarded … or under-rewarded.
We need to fix that, and it starts with noticing the people who are making the process and everyone around them better. With some effort, maybe we can quantify those contributions. They do it in sports with WAR and Win Shares (baseball) and Player Efficiency Rating (basketball). I’m not suggesting that we need a number for everything, but I’ve been around long enough to know that what gets measured, gets noticed.
And what gets measured, gets appreciated.
Who are your force multipliers?