I’ve been fascinated by dung beetles since I first read about them as a kid. Dung beetles, in case you’re not familiar with them, eat dung. When a large group of dung beetles dig in, 3.3 pounds of elephant dung can vanish in just two hours. One dung beetle can carry more than 250 times its own weight in dung. This tiny insect quite literally prevents crap from overtaking our beautiful planet.
Vultures, known for the fact that they eat dead, rotting animals, are similar. By dining on past-their-expiration-date carcasses, vultures prevent the rotting bodies from becoming a source of disease to other animals and humans in the ecosystem.
Both animals have pretty un-glamorous lives. You’re unlikely to ever see them emblazoned on national flags or celebrated with golden iconography or even featured on a stamp. At most, they get an honorable mention in frightening Halloween celebrations (though, even there, as second fiddle to the spiders.) The reason is obvious; the gathering of dung and consumption of rotting flesh are not the most attractive duties. They’re not majestic like eagles. They don’t possess the beauty of a butterfly. Not even the tangible utility of a cow. And I can’t say for certain, but I’m willing to go out on a limb and say neither dung beetles nor vultures look as cute as a panda when they sneeze.
Now to the point: Like our ecosystem, every organization has “behind the scenes” jobs that need to be done correctly. Without them, the organization risks long, slow suffering. Though the people who perform these tasks are out of sight, a goof-up in their departments will almost certainly be visible on the front-end of the business. And yet, what they do for the ecosystem is indispensable. Without dung beetles and vultures, our world would be a truly disgusting place.
These role players, if you will, are responding to your customer service requests, reordering supplies, managing your IT Helpdesk and organizing company happy hours. But what about the duties and tasks that are even further behind the scenes? For instance…
- Who is making sure all the fields in your CRM are complete?
- Who is reformatting expense reports when they are submitted incorrectly?
- Who is de-duping accounts in your CRM?
- Who is verifying that emails are correct in your prospect research process?
- Who is lining up travel for your sales reps so they don’t spend all day trying to book the cheapest ticket?
These are almost always tertiary responsibilities of someone who has much larger responsibilities, like generating revenue through selling. And the people filling these roles treat these tertiary responsibilities as such. As a result, they end up being done poorly, if at all.
The vultures and the dung beetles of our ecosystem are particularly effective because they play to their strengths. In the vultures’ case, only they have the strong, corrosive stomach acid required to digest their chosen meals. The dung beetle, too, is the only one capable of converting waste to nutrients that replenish animals and plants. Their focused efforts are what make them the protectors of our ecosystem.
How does your organization nurture and focus the workers who protect your environment – and your business – every day? Are you cognizant of those who, like dung beetles, carry much more than their perceived weight?