Recently, Chris Brogan reminded us of the importance of noticing the Jimmy Olsens around us. These are the loyal, connected, thorough, passionate, encouraging people who don’t look like superheroes. However, by being who they are, they transform “The Planet” and the planet into places worth being.
Even as I was reading that post, a Jimmy Olsen walked by my office and another was sitting two offices down. What characterizes both of these people…and Jimmy, is that they don’t try to be superheroes, they just do what they were made to do and do it well.
Unfortunately, it is easy to take Jimmy’s loyalty for granted. That cheerfulness? It will last as long as Superman’s strength, right? Unfortunately, there are some things that can destroy a Jimmy just as sure as Kryptonite.
So how do you keep Jimmy Jimmy?
- Give Jimmy information about the big picture so s/he knows where best to serve. Although “fiction Jimmy” only needs to follow the storyline, real people are helped by knowing all of the story they in. Although we often want to preserve privacy for some reason, Jimmy’s skills as an encourager or connector help in ways that we can’t imagine.
- Give Jimmy success stories about what s/he has enabled others to achieve. Whenever possible, as a superhero you need to tell Jimmy how s/he helped you save that life or stop the train or save the world. In the nonprofit world, for example, tell your volunteers how the food they collected meant that Heather and Jason actually had hot food yesterday.
- Give Jimmy permission to stop pleasing everyone occasionally. Jimmy is a pleaser, which is a strength, but also can be destructive. In fact, one writer talks about approval addiction in ways that make me think that may be I….
- Because Jimmy gets his/her delight in serving, don’t take the opportunities away. If Jimmy makes your coffee, don’t get all independent and self-sufficient. Just be grateful. Out loud.
- Give Jimmy protection. Don’t make Jimmy stand in front of the bullets if you are the one that is made of steel. Even a superhero gets tired of the pressure (and leaves the planet). However, if you are the one who can stop the bullets, don’t hide in your office while Jimmy answers the phone or the door or the flaming email. That’s NOT what Jimmy is built for. And real-life Jimmys can get wounded.
Jimmy probably would have made a great levite, directing all the attention to someone else. And that can be a pretty fulfilling task for those of us who are really glad we’re not the superhero.
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