Phillip and Florence, Invisible Stars

June 8, 2010 by Wally Bock

Phillip is an engineer. His company has a lot of them and he’s right in the middle of the pack. You’d never know he was a star.

Florence is an admin assistant. If you look on the org chart or the formal performance evaluations, you’ll see that Florence is competent and hardworking, but nothing special. You’d never know she was a star either.

Most discussions of stars concentrate on the visible ones. They’re the high potential managers, on their way to the C-suite. Or they may be star salespeople or scientists. Everybody knows about them.

But there are other stars in almost every company. The people who work with them really appreciate them, but otherwise they’re hardly noticed.

Take Phil. His company thought he was just another competent engineer until they did some social network analysis. They noticed that Phil had a lot more email and internal phone calls than other engineers.

Digging a little deeper, they found that Phil was one of those people who know just about everyone in the surrounding three counties plus everyone in his professional associations. He also loved helping people connect other people who could help with a problem.

That’s why people called and emailed him so often. Phil was what Malcolm Gladwell called a “Connector.”

Florence got a lot of email and phone traffic, too. People called her because she really understood the ins and outs of the company. One fan called her his “Spirit Guide to the Policy Manual.”

Florence could help you get that credit approval you needed for a sale. She could tell you who to call when you need information about the pension plan or the vacation policy. Gladwell named people like Florence, “Mavens” because they know so much.

Every company has people like Florence and Phillip. They know things no one else knows. They have a rich web of helpful relationships. It’s all in their heads, not in any data base or file folder.

How does your company deal with your Phillips and Florences? Do you appreciate what they do that’s not part of the job description. Do they get some special recognition for their special contribution?

Wally Bock is a coach, a writer and President of Three Star Leadership.

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