I am fascinated by the Uline catalog – a monstrous collection of items that businesses need to function: carpet mats, cardboard boxes, shrink wrap, strapping kits, pallet racks, stair treads, labels, rolling ladders, utility jugs, safety goggles and no parking signs – just to name a few. Not only do they carry thousands of items, but they also have seemingly infinite variations on the items they do carry. (For example, they stock over 220 sizes of gusseted poly bags!) In short, Uline carries all the non-sexy but essential items for shipping, packaging and industrial use – things that are taken for granted when they are in stock but cause operations to cease when inventory has run out.

Sometimes I think that the backroom employees are the Uline of personnel staffing. Operational staff often accomplish their work in anonymity and few understand their role. They deal with a level of complexity that outsiders don’t (and don’t need to) understand but it would baffle others that so many nuances even exist.

So often the focus is on those who deal directly with the customers, but without the work of those in support functions, service would be detrimentally impacted and it couldn’t be business as usual. We may not see those who pay the bills, ensure that taxes are submitted, change the air filters or buy the printer paper, but if they failed to do their job it would cause a commotion for everyone else.

Uline has found a niche by being in the business of helping businesses be able to run their business. Your backroom staff is doing the same for you. You may have no desire to understand their work but acknowledge that it is critical in order for you to do yours.

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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