A Leading Perspective

Pragmatic insights for the leader in you

Superheroes Don’t Always Wear Capes

“You don’t have to have super powers to be a superhero.”
Andrew Kinzie, Age 7

IMG_7765When he’s not getting into trouble for lacking focus and/or self discipline, my seven year old son often gives me little nuggets of wisdom. (He’s one-half old soul, one-half tazmanian devil.)

This morning was no exception. In the same minute he was trying to explain to me why he couldn’t possibly be expected to put away his clothes AND brush his teeth AND organize his homework, he told me you didn’t have to have super powers to be a superhero.

In context, he went on to explain that Batman and Robin were normal people. They developed some extraordinary skills and, because they were also great people on the inside, they became “superheroes.” Moreover, because they weren’t “gifted” some magical power, these two “normal” men were his favorites.

Not bad for a 7 year old.

Superheroes, rock stars, high performers…these are definitely the types of employees we all want on our staff and in our teams.

But as leaders, are we discounting the other folks? 

When was the last time we looked at what is on the inside of these individuals?

When was the last time we ensured everyone had the chance to develop extraordinary skills?

I’m a supervisor and trust me, I have my favorites; I don’t personally think there is anything wrong with having favorites.

Please note, I think there is a difference between having favorites and practicing “favoritism.”

I think it is normal for supervisors to consider certain team members as “highly reliable” and therefore, give them the critical, high profile or otherwise interesting projects because they can rely on those particular employees to get the job done. I think it is normal for supervisors to identify employees who are likely to effectively utilize or otherwise capitalize on newly acquired skills so, when training resources are available, they identify these employees as the ones who get to go. Finally, I think it is normal for supervisors to immediately think of their high performers when “recognition moments” roll around.

But what about the others? 

What about the employees who keep their heads down and do their jobs consistently and effectively but without “flair”?  (I call these “refrigerator employees…look for that post soon on Performance I Create.)

What about the employees who have the willingness to do the work but not the ability?

What about the employees who have potential but don’t flaunt it or otherwise wave their cape?

What about the employees who care about the vision/mission of the organization but simply don’t know how to help fulfill it?

Are these employees solely responsible for their own fate or does leadership need to step in and help them become superheroes?

I think there needs to be a healthy balance.

I’m not an advocate for doing everything for someone to ensure his/her success. I’m a hard worker and I expect my colleagues to be the same. However, I have also seen my fair share of great people, not necessarily rock star employees but great humans, go unnoticed for so long, go unchallenged for so long, go undeveloped for so long, and, moreover, unappreciated for so long that they give up or move on.

i learn

Superheroes don’t always wear capes.

Rock stars weren’t born with a platinum record in their crib.

Excellent, high performing employees often start as regular people.


Perhaps we should all ponder the advice from a wise 7 year old:
Take a look at your staff and see how they are on the inside, see what drives them to be great, see what skills they can develop, and then see if they can’t be one of your favorites.
AppreciationEmployee EngagementEmployee RelationsEncouragementEngagementHappinessLeadershipPerformance ManagementRetentionSatisfactionSkill DevelopmentValue

Heather Kinzie • October 14, 2014

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