Thursday, January 8, 2009

Praise for the Beer Truck Mentality

In my old corporate life we were always talking about databases and personal knowledge. The company was trying to get employees to put all of their client and candidate information into the database, instead of in files, on scraps of paper, or in their memory. The idea was to make all the information readily available in the event an employee was not available. As was commonly said, "What happens to the company if one of our top salespeople gets hit by a beer truck?". As a manager, I understood the desire to have all of the information available and not held captive in a person's head. But as an employee, I also understood the power to be had by keeping the information to myself.

If you are an invaluable employee, you most likely have some valuable information and skills that you alone possess. In a company without any databases or free information sharing, you can become quite powerful. This is often the case when you are working independently, have a lot of interaction with people outside the company, and are a hard worker. While companies work to get systems in place to prevent this from happening, frequently the systems are cumbersome and slow. If you are out there doing business, making sales, putting together successful projects, growing excellent grapes or making stellar wine, many managers will turn a blind eye on your failure to document.

I say this half-jokingly. No one wants you to be hit by a beer truck. But being irreplaceable to your employer helps keep you fully employed. While I hammered the importance of using the database, I knew that a great performer was worth far more than a completely executed data file. Surprisingly, many of my best performers through the years have also been highly motivated to keep their information up to date. Knowing all you can about your work is helpful in moving forward and finding new successes, which was probably why those good employees were interested in keeping current with their data.

My take-away for you. Become irreplaceable. Being great at what you do will pay off today and tomorrow.

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