The South Africans have a popular tale. It is about a man who had a beautiful piece of land, who, when he heard that diamonds had been discovered in Africa, immediately sold. He used the money to explore the continent for the rest of his life, searching in vain for diamonds he never found.

One day, the new owner of the farm he once owned, tripped on a large muddy stone that flipped over and sparkled in the sunlight. You guessed it; the stone was a huge diamond! It was one of the largest ever found, and only one of many found right there on the land the former farmer had left! All along, he had diamonds on the soles of his shoes!

Larger companies often are blind to the gems they have right in their own backyards. They tend to overlook the talent that is exactly what they need when it is right there in front of them. They think that the folks they hire are suitable for the position for which they were hired. Period. If different skills are required, then they will simply create a new job description and find someone to fill the position whose skills are adequate.

The multi-functional folks often go undetected. They may even be discouraged from doing other tasks for which they are imminently qualified. Ingrained HR policies and procedures keep them firmly in their box. Even though these employees may be aware of a better use of their talents, sometimes in essential jobs not yet created, they may have no channel to communicate this. They are told to “stay in line” and do only the job for which they were hired.

The company may be more profitable, grow faster, and improve its sales, if they only could get out of the hubris of thinking that the way things have been organized is the only way. They prefer to follow their unwritten rule that dictates that accepting advice from a lower level worker is just, well, not done. It would upset the hierarchy. And so, for the sake of corporate structure, these diamonds are often overlooked.

We once had a receptionist who came to us with a new position she herself wanted to fill. We asked what it was, and she replied, “Traffic Manager.” “Really! Do we need a Traffic Manager?” we asked. She informed us that our buyers’ trucks were being turned away from our warehouse because they did not have an appointment, and were driving back across the country without our goods on board, resulting in out-of-stocks, which in turn resulted in loss of shelf position, sales, and profits.

She said our clients and their sub-jobbers needed to be hand held to get the right paperwork and make the appointments with our warehouse in order to keep our product moving.

Yes, she got the new position and we patched a hole in our boat that we didn’t even know we had!

What if we were rigid and thought, “She applied for, and filled, the receptionist’s job and that’s that?” Or worse, “How dare she challenge our long established organization chart?” We would never have gotten the best out of our employee. We would never have corrected an unseen problem that was costing us plenty!

Are there diamonds on the soles of your shoes? Do your “lower level” people see both problems and opportunities that you, your managers, and your HR people don’t? Why not ask them? You may find out you don’t have to sell the farm and search the world for what you want. First, take a closer look in your own backyard.

Who Are We.

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse in 1986, to the board room of E&J Gallo, where they successfully sold their brand in 2005. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful and help corporations achieve entrepreneurial cultures to engage and empower their people.

Currently they travel the world keynoting at universities, corporations, conferences and symposiums. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals; along with being FOX News Radio Network’s Workplace Culture Experts. They are also the recipients of the 2014 Distinguished Entrepreneur Speaker Award from the Turner School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Bradley University. Visit their popular brand building site at www.thebrandauthority.net. To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact info@thebarefootspirit.com.

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders