From the Archives: Heroes Among Us (Part One)

I really should have run this one a while back, I guess.  Better late than never.  Enjoy a shout out to the past.

I grew up on comic books, and I still love them.  There.  I said it.  I feel better now.

Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the people around me in terms of the characters we all know.  It might help us get some insight into their strengths and weaknesses, and maybe even how to deal with them.  I’ll start with one of my all time favorites, coming soon to a theater near you.

(And I promise I spent more time looking for just the right picture than I did coming up with the rest of the post.)

I won’t go into the backstory of Hal Jordan/Green Lantern.  You can read it here if you really want.  But here’s the key elements:

  • He’s fearless
  • He’s a member of the GL Corps, an intergalactic police group of sorts, and watches over a fairly large piece of the universe (though that piece seems to consist mostly of California)
  • He can do just about anything with his ring that he can think of
  • He’s exceptionally smart and has incredible willpower
  • He…well, he kinda went crazy and tried to destroy everything.  But he got better.

GL came to mind when I thought about this series not because he’s one of my favorites, or because he’ll be a big time movie star.  He came to mind because I think we all have a Hal Jordan in our organization somewhere, even if we don’t know it.

Think about the people around you.  Who’s the one you can count on when you really need something done?  Maybe it isn’t that person’s job, or even their department, but they are willing to give you as much help as they can.   They always seem to know who to call for help, or who has a key to the storage room that you need to access, or are willing to help set up chairs for an event, or can get around the system and approve your software request in minutes instead of days.  You have one of them.  Even if you don’t know it, you have one.

The problem with a GL is that they are too good at being there when you need them.  You don’t really see how special they are.  (How can I miss you if you won’t go away?)  In the DC universe, GL was never the headliner.  That went to Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman.  Never mind the fact that GL could take any of them in a fair fight, he was too easily deployed in other ways to be the star.

The GL in your organization is likely to be the same way.  So good at so many things, yet not someone you look to move up the ranks quickly.  Maybe they haven’t spent enough time in sales/engineering/marketing/finance/HR because they are flexible enough to deploy anywhere.  Maybe they are strong team players, so never seem to take credit for the work themselves.  Maybe we’re just so used to them being there, we forget them.

DC may have neglected the potential of GL for years, but they have centered two of their biggest storylines around him in recent years.  They realized that the scope and scale of his power (and the GL Corps overall) were far greater than had been used so far, and took advantage of it.  The result has been a series of captivating stories and the development of some outstanding characters.  And yes, one of those stories was about him going over the edge.  But, as I said, he got better.

So what about your GL?  How engaged are they?  How much would your organization suffer if they were to leave?  My guess is more than you would realize.  They are they glue that hold teams together, and are incredibly valuable to have around.  So what can you do to attract and retain your GL?

  • Recognize their contribution.  It doesn’t have to be a big deal, but make sure they know they are appreciated.
  • Have a development plan for them that is meaningful.
  • Know what their career path looks like, and make sure they know too.  Nothing is worse than having big plans for someone, then having them leave because they didn’t know.
  • Find ways to help them develop in their chosen function.  Help prepare them to move up.

You want a GL to move up in your organization.  If you think they are great at being a team player, wait until you see them as a leader.  They can do great things indeed.

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