Don’t take the specialist out of the environment that makes them special. 

You’ve heard of them. You’ve seen them in movies. And you’ve maybe even wondered about the science that makes them different. They rarely have individual names in all the exploits you read, they’re more often mentioned as a group: Sherpas.

Wealthy adventurers hire Sherpas to help them get up legendary mountains like Mount Everest
Sherpas are literally built for this. God put them in a certain place, at a certain altitude, with certain natural abilities (more specifically their lungs and blood). Simply and most crudely put, they haul crap up a mountain on a regular basis so a foreigner can take a picture and take the credit. It’s fine.

It’s what the Sherpas do.

(And, for the record, sometimes they do get credit.)

But credit isn’t why they do it. Unlike their contract employers, they didn’t adjust the last 2 years of their lives to achieve a once-in-a-lifetime thing. This is their life. They are very much in their sweet spot at high altitude doing dangerous work with little credit.

Imagine, though, you hired a great Sherpa. You like the guy and really made a connection on the mountain. You have nearly unlimited funds so you ask him to come to America where now he can live at sea level, watch TV, but still carry your stuff around if he’d like. Maybe you think he can even help you train for another climb. On your off days you want to show him off to the friends or the media, take him to your favorite coffee spot, and catch a new show on one of 15 different TV subscription services. All that sounds great!

You took the Sherpa from the environment that made him a Sherpa.

He starts getting winded. The humidity is exhausting. He gets bored so he gets frustrated. Media hype died very quickly (as it always does) because the shelf-life of a hero is shortened the further they get from the environment that created the hero in them. He can’t fit into the American culture because he doesn’t like Netflix and Discover+ like you do as well as your coffee is weak. You may pay him more, sure, but he’s not in it for the money.

What now?

You met the guy, loved the guy, and paid the guy to be a Sherpa.

Let the Sherpa sherpa.

It’s what he’s made to do.

You have any Sherpas out of place? Maybe a great builder you tried to a make a project manager? A worship leader you tried to make a social media manager? A people person you tried to make a systems person? Or systems person you tried to make a people person?

Did you say the obligatory “it’s for the greater good” or “you’ll love this more”?
Did a leadership cliche not quite change their God-ordained abilities and calling like you expected?
Are you now frustrated with someone you once loved, appreciated, admired, and leaned on?

Put them back!

Let the admin admin.
Let the students guy student.
Let the groups guy group.
Let the creative guy create.
Let the worship guy worship.
Let the builder build.
Let the Sherpa sherpa.

I can help put them back. I was taken from a mountain a time or two. And I’ve seen the value of keeping the specialist in place. Get on my calendar and let’s make it better.