Be warned: Unthrottle the go-to bottlenecks

Ever play nation ball? I loved it growing up. It was a dodge ball variant that really rocked with fast-paced action, mystery, misery, intrigue, redemption, success, failure and ultimate victory.

Like the workplace.

In nation ball (as in many games of my youth) there were usually these players:

  • The Team Captains. The playground leaders who always picked the teams.
  • The Go-To Guys and Gals. Those who are always picked in the first few rounds of team selection.
  • The Expendable Crew Members. Those who had some nation ball skills, who aspired to be the go-to kids, but were known for getting picked off early on.
  • The Pariahs. Those who stood on the sidelines because they were never picked. If they were, they were the first to go. Always.

This was the hierarchy. HR was made up of the teachers and playground aides, the watchdogs, who only cared about maintaining order and compliance; not a lot of T&D going on to facilitate better mad nation ball skills (or tetherball, or four square, or hopscotch, or kickball, or…).

It wasn’t about “everybody’s a winner” and “everybody gets to play”. You either fought to be a go-to, or you remained expendable. Or you were a pariah.

Right or wrong those were the rules of the playground. Maybe the rules at your company today.

Sure, with all the talk of employee development and engagement and retention and the need to hold on to your talent, you’d think that wasn’t the case.

But business is crazy-fast these days across industries and there’s limited time to help the expendable crew members, and goodness gracious, the pariahs as well. So we try to ignore them. The focus is on the go-to’s.

Leaders always go to the go-to’s first. The ones who go above and beyond. Work early and work late. The ones who get things done, who help grow the business, who own the knowledge capital of your organization.

The bottlenecks.

Wait, what? Yes, the bottlenecks. The ones who slow down the crazy-fast, but not in a good way.

The go-to bottlenecks are the top talent we want to retain, but we’re jeopardizing the business the way we treat them — and we’ll lose them someday.

Consider this:

A new national survey commissioned by Jobvite found two-thirds of currently employed Americans, roughly 77.5 million people, are either actively seeking a job or open to a new opportunity.

What percentage of those are go-to’s? Good question, huh. Hopefully not part of your percentage.

Yes, there’s a ton of chatter about these go-to folks having to do much more with much less and they want to jump ship no matter how cold the water.

And they can. Because you choke them.

What do you do? Unthrottle the go-to bottlenecks.

  • Create formal and informal go-to learning networks for mentoring and career development.
  • Empower and train the expendable crew members so as to develop more go-to’s.
  • Allow go-to’s and expendables in training to dial up and down their roles and responsibilities.
  • Recruit and hire those with go-to potential — FT, PT, contractor, etc.
  • Reward the unthrottled go-to’s and empowered and trained expendable crew members.
  • Don’t be afraid to fire those who can’t be empowered and developed.

Oh, and watch out for the –



Be better and brighter.

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