This past week I learned about a practice called “upcycling,” a word that comes from the green movement and which encourages the reuse and repurposing of existing materials in new and interesting ways.
The person who introduced me to the upcycling world was Victoria Tane, a jeweler who takes estate sale and flea market finds and re-purposes them into beautiful, wearable works of art. When I first walked into her studio, I was greeted by displays of both beauty and whimsy: former pastry decorating tips transformed into fashionable necklaces; beads, old buttons and wire glued together into a brooch you could swear you saw on a fashion runway; unique headbands that, with a twist of the wrist, become geometric chokers. And all the items refashioned with new purpose.
Victoria’s work got me thinking. As leaders and as team development specialists, how often do we seek out the shiny and new when, if we stepped back just a bit, we might find exactly what we need right before our eyes—if only we are willing to look in a slightly different way, to look not only with purpose, but with repurpose?
Right now I’m working with a client at a pivotal point in her career. She is an expert in what she does and is well-respected. She believes she might be ready to take the next step in her career. However, if she sought new opportunities, her absence would leave a huge gap in her group, a simple fact that has created an impasse for her. The friction between her wish for promotion and the group’s need for her to stay where she is very much needed has caused a rift in their relationship. Her loyalty is beginning to wane.
The issue I see is one of opportunity: the organization should consider upcycling this leader’s skills, taking what she’s really good at and repurposing those skills somewhere else in the organization. By rewarding her expertise and refashioning her capabilities, she achieves upward mobility while the organization retains important talent. Employee retention and engagement equals cost savings—and much more—for the company.
What leadership capabilities and talents can be upcycled in your organization? Are there those hidden jewels amongst your teams that can be refashioned and repurposed to address critical business and talent needs? In taking the time to see people and their skills in a slightly different way, you may find just what you are looking for!