Do you remember back to your junior high science class and your teacher taught you that “the cell is thew building block of the human body”? I think we were all taught that phrase at some point in our education, whether we were listening or not. Did you know there are approximately 37 trillion cells in the human body? Each one has a specific job to do or function to carry out that is vitally important to the entire system.
So my question today is: If there are 37 trillion cells in the body, how important is just one cell? We lose skin cells all the time so that doesn’t seem like a big deal. Some people do things that kill brain cells, which may not be a big deal for a lot of people but I don’t have that many to start with.
The truth is, as long as all the cells are functioning as they are supposed to, we have some wiggle room. If all the cells just do the job they are programmed to do, the overall results are amazing. They create a living, moving, thinking, feeling human being. And it is in the best interest of each cell to do its job correctly so that the body stays alive and thrives.
But that system only works as long as all the cells do what they are programmed to do. Sometimes a cell goes “rogue”. It stops doing its job and decides it wants to do its own thing. It goes from being a giver to a taker. It starts to require energy and sustenance from the rest of the body without doing anything in return. Soon that one cell multiplies and spreads into other cells, forming a small community of cells that do nothing of value and drain the body’s resources. We know these cells as cancer.
While normal cells follow signals from the body about how big to get, what job to do, and when to divide into other cells, cancer cells follow their own program. They grow however they want, act however they want, and spread to wherever they want, all along demanding that the body feed them and support their activities. Unless dealt with early enough, the cancer will eventually spread throughout the body. and cause the death of the entire system.
Do you have cancer in your organization?
As you read the description of cancer above, did your mind make the connection to a person or group of people in your organization? The person who has decided to do things their own way. They don’t follow the instructions of what they need to be doing. They allow their behavior to spill over onto other people or into other departments. They don’t give anything to the company or their team any more, they have become takers. They suck the energy and resources of the people around them and always demand more. They want more people to be like them so they infect others with their attitude and convert them into cancer cells as well. Before long, they have multiplied enough that the organization is in crisis.
Business owners and management spend countless hours trying to identify and eradicate “cancer cells” from their company because they know that, if left alone, the cancer will spread to the point of destroying the whole organization.
Eradicate the cancer.
When it comes to a team or organization, there are steps to dealing with the cancers that pop up:
Identify the cancer early – Be watchful for people who are acting like “cells gone rogue.” They will usually start demanding things and doing things their own way. They may even cause other employees to be infected and disgruntled.
Attack the cancer – Well, don’t physically attack anyone, but you do need to sit them down and talk with them. Let them know that they cannot continue to do what they are doing. If they aren’t willing to change, they will need to be removed from the system.
Remove the cancer – If the behavior persists you must get the cancer out of your organization as fast as possible. If you don’t, you run the risk of a small problem growing into a massive one involving many employees. The most trouble I’ve gotten into as a business owner were the times that I was slow to get rid of cancer cells in my office. The whole team is looking around wondering why you are letting cancer grow and doing nothing about it. Very few things make you look worse as a leader than allowing cancer to grow unchecked.
Nourish your team like you would your body.
High performing teams are like high-performing bodies: When all of the cells are well-nourished and cared for they are more likely to all work together for the greater good. They will perform their assigned responsibilities when they know that their role is not only vital but appreciated. Take care of your body, take care of your team, and make sure to get rid of the cancer cells as soon as you find them and you will accomplish great things.