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Amy Rees Anderson: In business, every single person and department matters

By Amy Rees Anderson

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, Jan. 28 2013 12:00 p.m. MST

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Editor's note: This article written by Amy Rees Anderson originally appeared on Forbes.com and is being reprinted with her permission.

Every single job in a company has vast importance, and far too often people lack an appreciation or an understanding of just how impactful each position is to the overall success or failure of a business.

In my many years as a CEO, I would often watch as employees across various departments would either feel that their position was the most important position in the entire company, or that their role simply didn’t matter. Those who felt they were “better than” always thought their skill set or knowledge made them far more critical to the success of the company than someone who performed a “lesser” job than they did. Any time employees felt this way I knew it was time for an immediate intervention. I came to learn that this “better-than” attitude almost always stemmed from a complete lack of understanding of what went on in other positions throughout the company that they deemed to be “lesser than.” When these situations arose, I intervened by making every employee spend a few days or weeks working in the various departments of the company in order to have them experience each role firsthand. I found that putting people through this additional training worked instant magic in helping them to have a greater appreciation for the importance of every other person in the organization.

Prior to this intervention, these “better-than” employees viewed themselves as the most critical component to our company’s success. However, they came away recognizing that without every department doing its part, none of us would be able to succeed. This exercise in mutual respect and appreciation was one of the most valuable exercises we put people through and the results were tremendous. I highly recommend that every company implement this intervention for its existing staff, and include it as part of any new hire training programs.

So often in life people can only appreciate what they have firsthand knowledge of. They only know how difficult their own job is, but just by exposing them to other jobs, a leader can help to rectify this. Consider the following example of sales company as it illustrates how connected each department is in a company and the impact individual successes or failures can have on an entire organization.

First is marketing. If they don’t brand the company well and get its name out there, then there won’t be new sales coming in to the business. If they don’t keep outbound communication flowing to clients, then there will be unhappy customers. Getting the messaging right to properly define the company is their most vital role, and the entire company falters when they don’t do it well.

Next is sales. If sales doesn’t follow up on leads, then the company won’t have new clients. If salespeople set unclear or unrealistic expectations for a client, the client will never be happy. If salespeople don't communicate the right information to a customer or to the other employees in the other divisions of the company, then the client will have billing problems, pricing issues, and complaints about delivery of their product or service. Thus, everyone in the company relies on sales to communicate accurately so that delivery can be a success.

Then there are account managers. If the account managers don’t do a good job of training and supporting the customers and explaining the needed processes, the client will be unhappy and the company will lose the account. If account managers don’t communicate new changes or requirements from their clients to other departments in the company in a timely manner, then those departments can’t do their jobs correctly. If the account managers don’t tell finance about client billing issues then finance can’t do their job correctly. If the account managers don’t keep their clients happy, then the sales team can’t make additional sales.

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