When I think about organizations my thoughts are built on a single premise that says most people want to make a positive difference in their organization and any person, regardless of his or her title, can make a positive difference in an organization of any size.
To me, a positive difference is doing something or saying something that causes other people to act in ways that generate better sustainable results for the organization.
Any person can make a positive difference, but not every person does. We can’t tell who the positive difference-makers are going to be based on their labels. We can only figure it out by looking backward at what kind of an impact the person had on the organization.
Make a list of 20 people whom you consider to be positive difference-makers. Have the names of 10 famous people and the names of 10 people you personally know whom you felt made a positive in their organization. Write the 20 names down the left side of a sheet of paper. Then on the right side write down each person’s gender, race, height, personality type, degree of formal education, name of the university or high school they graduated from, industry in which he or she worked, title, and role in the organization.
When you get all done, compare the labels of these 20 people and see if you can find any common denominators. My experience in having worked with thousands of people is that there is no correlation between their labels and the amount of positive difference they made in their organization.
I believe this means that any person in an organization can make a positive difference. We just don’t know which ones those people will be. I think we are vastly too quick to label people. Employers spend a lot of time interviewing candidates trying to find just the right person for their organization, and then within six months they’re labeling these new hires as “Top 20%” or “Bottom 10%” or “a real sales person” or a “detail worker, but not a big picture thinker.” Rather than labeling people, try to get out of their way, and in some cases help them get out of their own way, so they can make the difference that they are capable of making.