You need both Drains and Radiators for your plumbing to work
I recently went to a conference where one of the speakers talked about people being either ‘radiators’ or ‘drains’. It was very amusing and the speaker was very charismatic, engaging and persuasive. Some people are great to have in the team (radiators) and some are, well frankly does it need further clarification....Drains..... Sucking out all the fun and energy, and bringing down the team/ department/ culture/ organisation.
In some ways, I understood this analogy very well and I laughed along with everyone else and nodded when the speaker advocated the quick removal of your company ‘drains’ and to only recruit ‘radiators’. This was what companies needed to do to ensure their employee engagement was high enough – a call to action and to remove all drains.
But driving home, reflecting on the day as the critical thinker that I am, I realised something didn’t sit well inside me. It seemed too easy, too simple and in a way, plain wrong. Who gets to decide who is a ‘drain’ for starters? What behaviours define a ‘drain’? How consistently do you need to be a ‘drain’ before you get the ‘chop’? How consistently do you need to be a ‘radiator’ to ensure that you don’t get ‘chopped’? Do you get a warning that you have been labelled ‘Drain’ or ‘Radiator’?......the questions were endless.
If Drains have a negative outlook on life, are self-absorbed, mean, boring, demanding with a constant need for reassurance then what would it be like if we managed to get a company full of Radiators? All optimistic, hardworking, dutiful, self confident, kind and fun employees?
If you look at the darker side of these behaviours, optimism can lead to rose-tinted and superficial thinking; hard work can lead to perfectionism, dutifulness can lead to ingratiation; self confidence to arrogance; kindness to being a doormat or taken advantage of; fun to impulsiveness.
I certainly believe that we need to start appreciating the value people bring to an organisation, rather than making sure that they fit some cultural blueprint of ‘oneness’. That's why I love my job - coaching people to make those small modifications to become the person that they are truly meant to be. That's why I believe passionately that organisations should provide coaching opportunities at all levels.
I adore Simon Seniks’s philosophy
“If the realist sees the obstacles on the path and the idealist sees the beauty in the distance, both would be well served to travel together.”