The indispensable few


The indispensables ones aren't always highlighted in gold

Everywhere I have been in my local government odyssey there have been some constants. Bad catering, poor heating systems and numerous complicated templates are just an example of the commonality possessed across the local government sector.

Another, often unsung, constant is the presence of one person who knows everyone and everything about the team, and often the council, you’re working in.

I call these people the indispensable few.

The indispensable few don’t occupy senior roles within the authority.

Some will be PAs (long established as the most powerful position in any organisation) but more often than not the indispensable colleague is just an ‘ordinary’ member of the team, an ‘ordinary’ officer or a service manager, usually of a small service.

This person will have a set role to perform but will be found helping anyone and everyone achieve their goals. They will be a source of news and information but won’t be gossipers in the traditional sense of the word. They’ll know what’s going on but have a clear idea of what can be shared, to who and when. They will often be taken into the confidence of half the organisation; and never let anyone down.

The individual in question is the person we turn to when we need advice and aren’t ready to go up the chain to our manager etc.

They’ll know who to call and where information can be found.

In summary, the indispensable few act as the grease that helps the council operate smoothly. Without them I’m pretty sure the council would not function nearly as well.

Yet, this is a skill and a role that is sadly underappreciated. You won’t find it on organisation charts or in job descriptions and you certainly won’t get a grade of pay bump if you fulfil it. Instead, being appreciated will have to be enough.

The hardnosed amongst us would say that if these people were so valuable they would be moving into management and off up the organisation and perhaps they are right. The un-sympathetic would say that those with time to help others don’t have enough of their own work to do; they would be wrong.

But I say that we need these people in our organisation.

The indispensable few are the linchpins around which even the whole organisation hangs. We need to do everything we can to keep them in our organisations and reward them appropriately for the often unseen and under-appreciated work they do in helping the public services function.

So here on the welovelocalgovernment blog we say ‘yay’ to the indispensable few and encourage each and every one of you reading this post to find that person in your council and personally thank them for the job they do.

Explore posts in the same categories: We love the Council

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3 Comments on “The indispensable few”

  1. Loulouk Says:

    If it’s the people I think you mean in our org, they’re the people who’d turn down a promotion if you offered it to them as they’re perfectly happy where they are thank you very much being able to clock off at 5pm and not needing to take any work home with them.

    For some reason, this is a concept some people really struggle with.

  2. Frieda_M Says:

    This made me think of one theory I’ve heard about where the power really resides in an organisation. It is not with the people at the top of the tree, but with those who are the key nodes in the the network of people within the organisation – the ones who know everyone and who know what goes on, who share knowledge and experience, and make connections. All power to them!

  3. misskrin Says:

    Agreed. My first strategy when entering an organisation is to identify these people as they can generally supply you with great advice on how to flow through the organisation. Also, I tend to eventually become one of these people in the end. E.g. one of the items on my to-do list is to write up a note on how to organise the meeting space at one of our off-site offices, since I previously worked there.

    2 comments on this paragraph:
    “The hardnosed amongst us would say that if these people were so valuable they would be moving into management and off up the organisation and perhaps they are right. The un-sympathetic would say that those with time to help others don’t have enough of their own work to do; they would be wrong.”

    1. Valuable and being in management are not synonymous. Yes there is overlap, but we need to get past the idea of valuable = wanting a promotion/should be promoted. Some people are very aware of what sort of work they are happy doing and don’t want to become a manager. Thinking of a specific colleague here, she would much rather be a hands-on program developer working with our stakeholders than a manager dealing with staff and reports and strategy.

    2. Often these sorts of people, by their very way of approaching the world, have developed systems and flow that allow them to get things done in a more efficient-ish way, OR there is the awareness of reciprocity, helping someone and “wasting” some time this week means that next week, when you need to get something delivered quickly the good will already exists to do so. So I doubt that this sort of assistance is wasting time, per se.


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