When Apple released its touch ID feature for the iPhone years ago, there was a mini moment of gossip about whether someone could chop off your finger and gain access to your phone. Perhaps these conversations only happened in my Las Vegas social circles after watching “Casino” for the fourth time.
At some point, we’ve all been presented with some sort of hypothetical “would you rather …” scenario where we’d have to choose from two or more interesting, undesirable or, sometimes, horrific situations.
It makes for great dinner party conversation.
“Would you rather have universal respect or unlimited power?”
“Would you rather be royalty 1,000 years ago or an average person today?”
“Would you rather wear the same socks for a month or the same underwear for a week?” (This is an experiment I swear my 10-year-old seems to keep testing on his own.)
When the cold snap hit Texas and the South in 2021, we played a real-life version of it. Some lost power. Some lost water.
Would you rather lose hot water for a week or electricity? (The internet!?)
Going back to the iPhone scenario, one question that has been asked is if you had to lose a finger, which would it be?
When asked this question, I often answer: “My pinkie.” It’s tiny. It’s on the end … out of sight, out of mind. Pointers get a lot of attention and use. Chicago drivers would be lost without their middle fingers. Maybe we could lose the ring finger, but that would create a whole wedding issue. We know we need thumbs to grip stuff.
But the pinkie? Sure, take the pinkie, who cares?
I gave that digit so little thought I couldn’t even spell it correctly. (In writing this column, I spelled it “pinky” until I was nearly done and reading other articles and saw it as “pinkie.”) I went to the dictionary and double checked the spelling. Who knew?
I double checked “thumb” at that point, too, for good measure and paranoia.
My perspective on the littlest digit changed when it was pointed out (verbally, not with a finger) that a massive amount of hand strength resides in the pinkie. Evidently, you need something to oppose that opposable thumb and that duty falls to the opposite side of the hand: the little, lowly pinkie. Easily 50% of your hand strength resides with that little digit. Go figure!
Worse yet, because it’s so small and on the end of the hand it’s more prone to injury.
Lots riding on that little finger, and we don’t even help it out!
Well, we all have metaphorical pinkies in our lives and businesses, such as people or items we may not necessarily pay attention to that provide incredible support to what’s going on.
Maybe this is the front-line crew member who silently but effectively welds details. Maybe it’s the shop assistant who keeps 800 tools secure and materials inventoried and organized.
I recently visited Advanced Roofing in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., an operation with sprawling warehouses. During the shop tour, the company’s founder, Rob Kornahrens, introduced me to Herbie Allen, who Kornahrens described as “the one who knows where everything is and keeps us running.” Allen has been working for Advanced Roofing for decades in the yard and warehouses and is part of the organizational family. The smiles and body language by both gentlemen conveyed their history and respect for each other.
The thing is, not all employees in many companies are treated like that. If someone is not the whiz kid estimator or the salesperson who breaks quotas every month, he or she may not get any public attention or even be on the radar at all. But they need to be. Because like your pinkie, your world gets jammed up in a hurry without them.
Consider a manufacturer’s line worker who is solid, reliable and hardworking. In the current environment, that quiet “pinkie” worker is more important than ever. But if he or she doesn’t feel valued or appreciated, it’s far more likely the company will lose him or her to a competitor or another industry.
The most overlooked person on your team may be providing incredible value, and you’d find your company, division or crew far worse off if that person were gone.
These overlooked employees will answer another version of the “would you rather …” question and choose to work elsewhere.
Ultimately, would you rather work for just a paycheck or would you rather be involved in a company, cause and purpose where you feel valued, appreciated and fulfilled? These are real questions in people’s minds every day.
We need to protect, praise and value the “pinkies” in our lives. It’s a quiet role we may be underappreciating.
MCKAY DANIELS is NRCA’s CEO.
This column is part of News + Views. Click here to read additional stories from this section.
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