Ideas Are Overrated

Grocery Store

… the originator of ideas is undervalued.

My family has had a business of somekind in my hometown since 1914. That might be where I get my entrepreneurial spirit. While I was growing up, we had a local grocery store named Staiger’s Grocery. Original, isn’t it? I worked there for nearly five years. Primarily, I stocked the shelves and loaded people’s cars with their purchases.

One day, I was maneuvering a large stack of cattle feed (it was Kellyville, Oklahoma – we had to carry groceries for the livestock as well). The stack shifted and began to fall. I tried to keep it from falling and almost got smashed in the process. My father was the store manager. He saw what happened and warned me, “We can replace the feed, but we can’t replace you. Next time, let it go.” I don’t think he said that just because I’m his son. Dad valued the people who worked for him. Actually, he values people… period.

Ask a manager/boss/business owner about the ideas which have made their company successful and they’ll get excited. Usually, these are the stories they love to tell.

Ask about the people they work with or employ and you’ll hear the horror stories. Oddly enough, some love to tell these stories as well.
Problem is – you can replace the ideas, but you can’t replace the people.

Do you devalue the people you work with? Don’t just look at what you say to them. See what your actions say about their value as well. How and when do you reward? How and when do you correct?

How do you let them know they’re irreplaceable? Do you even believe they are?

Dustin Staiger is a business and marketing coach in Houston, TX. He addresses team and individual effectiveness, marketing, communications and creativity for smaller, entrepreneurial organizations as well as large enterprises.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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3 thoughts on “Ideas Are Overrated

  1. What a great testimony to your Dad. And I love the illustration. It’s easy to lose sight of what is replaceable vs what is irreplaceable.

    It’s easy to fall into the trap of extolling ideas and vision at the expense of people. Ideas are easy to talk about. We can own them. We can develop them. We can share them. We can implement then. We can generally form opinions about them without repercussion. And when we get tired of them, we can discard them and move on to the next one.

    People require a lot more finesse. I suspect it’s not so much that we consciously devalue people. Most managers I know would quickly acknowledge that people are more valuable than ideas. The problem is that we just don’t know how to relate to the people around us. We can’t control them as easily as ideas. We can’t talk about them as easily as ideas. So by default, we end up ignoring them.

    Your dad had it right. The best way to value your people is to show them love, respect, and dignity. He conveyed all that in one simple act. Kudos to him. And thanks to you for a timely reminder.

  2. Thanks Steve. I feel very fortunate for the role model my father has played in my life. I’ve learned a lot from him.

    Thanks for your additional comments. I agree completely with your thoughts and they give greater context to the story I shared. After reading your comments, it starts to sound like an issue of trust – not just of value. If I trust you, I don’t have to control you.