In WWII, waterproof watches became a necessity. An Italian diamond dealer, James Assael, met this need through his Swiss contacts. He supplied watches for the Allied forces through the duration of the war. At the war’s end, he found himself with a massive surplus of watches. The only people in need were the Japanese, who at that time had no resources to pay for waterproof watches. What they did have though, were “junk pearls”, something we now know as black pearls. A strand of which, now goes for around $100,000. At the time, they were useless beads of ocean waste. However, James saw potential, and taught his son, Salvador, to trade waterproof watches for junk pearls – by the bulk load.
Salvador tested the market with these black pearls, but was unable to convince people. They were a too common.
Suffering from the woes of supply and demand, or lack thereof, Salvador contacted his old friend and gem dealer, Harry Winston.
Harry took the project in his own hands, and told Salvador that he would put one strand on the front window of his Fifth Avenue New York store and commissioned full page ads of the black pearls cast among rubies and diamonds.
What was once called the junk pearl quickly became the coveted jewelry piece for persons of the high society. Everyone had to have a strand of Harry Winston black pearls. Even today, a strand of black pearls speaks to a higher level of status and income – all this because these junk pearls got into the right hands and right window.
That was a long story… and it is extremely relevant to you as a leader. Believe it or not, you have the same power as Harry Winston in the work place. You have the power to say what goes in the front window, and what goes out.
As the head of your team, you have the power to make someone important through just a few words – a coveted front-window display. Conversely, you have the power to destroy reputations and how people are seen by others.
How about an example? We’ll call him Charlie. Charlie is quiet, often pushed to the back of conversations and invitations – a loner in the group. People make side remarks about him, making him feel more isolated. But let’s be real… it’s Charlie… that’s just how he is…
Imagine yourself talking to your more vocal team members and making a comment like, “Yeah… Charlie may be quiet, but in a tight spot, he’s the kind of guy I want to have on my team.”
Or in a group setting when decisions are being made, “Hey Charlie, what are your thoughts on this?”
Now, suffice it to say, Charlie might not be your favorite either, and he might not be up to a high performance level… yet. He might not be the easiest to work with. Nevertheless, he’s a member of your team. And you’re more than a team member, you’re a team leader. It is your privilege to find that talents of your team members and allow them to succeed.
Your challenge this week: find the least noticed person on your team. And without being too obvious, make them a front-window display.
This doesn’t have to be painful, and most importantly, it shouldn’t be forced. They’ll notice! But it’s important as a leader that you see value in your team members and team.
Cliché as it might sound, you are truly are only as strong as your weakest link. Let me repeat that, you, personally, as a leader, are only as strong as the weakest link on your team. Their failures are your failures, their successes are your successes.
That’s the true meaning of team.
It’s vital that you give the black pearls an opportunity to become someone everyone wants to be around.
Try it out this week, identify someone, make a comment or two. See what comes of it.