Who are your Organization's Superstars?

I've been called a jack-of-all-trades, a "guru," and on occasion my favorite, "arrogant." Ok, I didn't like being called arrogant but a buddy said it was a badge of honor--why wouldn't you want to be called arrogant?

One place to check any arrogance in at the door is with your team. My unsolicited advice to any working professional is to respect your coworkers, and to know specifically who are your organization's linchpins aka "superstars."

Title

Although you might know an administrative assistant, office/project coordinator/manager, or supervisor acting as the role of superstar, you can't always tell your super stars by title.

I've known IT "admins" that had direct lines of communication with the CIO. I've known volunteers who could get two dozen people in a Webinar by invite alone (and still not be satisfied at the turnout). I've personally served as a front desk receptionist, a customer service representative, or as the intern but often had access to the boss, management, or could potentially solve your problem given a chance. This idea of hidden power relates to types of power and distinguishes between official titles versus chosen or adopted roles.

Roles

I don't know how, but the best and busiest office managers, admins, or coordinators I've known seem to do their jobs, and then go beyond and act on the office morale committee, share the 2-for-1 Jamba Juice coupons, remember everyone's birthday, organize the office parties, or have all the inside leads for {pick your chosen profession or industry}. These linchpins often do the exact same tasks as "official" management and help define the informal office culture and leadership.

You might recognize some of the following roles:
  • the in-house human search engine: person who can find anything online in seconds, no matter how obscure (careful, some either enjoy or begrudge this power--act accordingly)
  • tools master: has access to, and knows background for, all the official and unofficial tools for the shop. If you're in software development, this person knows the useful Firefox plugins, how to debug with the JavaScript console, and how to make re-usable scripts with Selenium.
  • local guide, all-in-one concierge: this linchpin knows the ins-and-outs of the city, can book things no one else can, and might even know individual office staff food preferences
  • the subject-matter expert (SME): your product, software, or process guru that knows everything about anything about X
  • even the contentious curmudgeon: who by paradoxically questioning the status quo, asking the tough questions, and challenging others makes it a better place to work at 
  • know any others?
Roles and titles change, but the one consistent feature of the organizational superstar is their ability to contribute emotional work, beyond their assigned lists of tasks. Whether they piss you off or brighten your day, they're dedicated to the mission and the organization, even in ways the organization may not recognizes it needs.

Self-Serving Gratitude

Being new at my current job, I've had people quietly point out "hey be nice to Cassandra" or "make sure you give Martha plenty of time to approve your travel." Update: "be nice to Trix if you're heading from North America to Europe." Heeding such advice comes in handy when trying to secure your new work phone or you're lost on the company travel booking website and the built-in fields don't easily translate into something you're familiar with.

In the local office, Office Manager Mae seems to know everything about anything nearby, from how to book at the local hotel (even when booked solid) to the best place to get Mexican food in Campbell.

At my last place, D'Nita was the positive firecracker in IT as well as an uber geek mom (attested to by annual family trips to Comic Con and participation in anime and renaissance fairs).
Am I kissing butt, so-to-speak? Yes! And you better do the same because you never know your team's true power. A team member's job title, role, or assigned duties help you identify the general area of their responsibilities, but not the power they have or the roles they've taken on.
Your organization's superstars may have a long track record with the company, a great personality, and will likely get along with most everyone (even that contentious curmudgeon no one seems to get). They're the first to welcome newbies and one of the last to give you a pat-on-the-back or hug and wish you well when it's time to change careers. I risk over-generalizing here, though, because your office superstar will be unique in his or her own way.

Disclaimer: respecting and appreciating your team doesn't mean you'll always agree or that any single person will have an answer for everything. But never mistake someone's title with status, importance, or contribution to your team. Oh and if your superstar happens to have an admin title, officially, Admin Professional's Day is in April, but don't wait until then to appreciate admins or any of your peers.

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