Recognise This: If you’re not replaceable, you’re not promotable.

Last holiday season, Steve Boese related a sweet story on traditional family recipes in his HR Technology Blog.

In the post, Steve tells of his mother and her special stuffing that was venerated throughout the family.

“But no one knows how, exactly, to duplicate Mom’s stuffing. She never shared the recipe, never revealed her secrets. She, I suppose, was successful in keeping ‘Joan’s Stuffing’ as a legendary fixture in the family history. We will never have it again, because no one really knows precisely how to mix, measure, prepare, and serve the dish the way she did for all those years.

“What she did not fully understand, even if she had carefully recorded the recipe, and made sure that the next generation could precisely and honorably replicate the dish, it still would always be her dish. The stuffing, the pie, the potatoes – whatever, they are just food. The legacy of Mom and Grandma isn’t about food, it’s about how they took care of you, and your brothers and sisters, and everyone else that they touched. What makes me sad it that I don’t think we let the Moms and Grandmas know this often enough, and they feel by clinging to their secret recipes we won’t be able to forget them.”

The same is true in the workplace. When we withhold knowledge, often in an effort to protect ourselves and our “place” in the team, we also make ourselves irreplaceable. And as a boss of mine once told me, “If we can’t replace you, we can’t promote you.”

Steve’s second point is just as powerful. We don’t tell the people important to us – at home and at work – just how much they are appreciated and valued. Perhaps if we did, it’d be easier to “share the secret sauce.”

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