Harry was not a well man
He was in a terrible state of health. Cancer had eaten away at his digestive tract, it was so bad that surgeons had removed three-quarters of his stomach.
He was constantly in and out of hospital, surviving on a diet of caffeine, nicotine and blood transfusions. A friend’s daughter described him as:
small, shrunken, sick . . . looking sort of like a very sad dog
It was only a question of time before Harry died
If you were Harry’s employer, what would you do?
It isn’t politically correct… but Harry was a liability, more dead than alive, you could hardly have him wandering around the office. He could only work for a few hours a day and then he felt dreadful again.
What sort of organisation would really want Harry on their books? The only fair thing to do was pension him off.
The truth about Harry
Harry, or to give him his full name, Harry Lloyd Hopkins, was a strategic and diplomatic genius. He had an eerie ability to know exactly when to force his point and when to back off, and the way he could talk to people was uncanny.
During the Second World War, Harry was President Roosevelt’s constant aide and companion.
- Harry persuaded Roosevelt to help the British by supplying troops and materials for the war in Europe
- Harry supported Vannevar Bush in his attempts to fund the Manhattan project
- Harry worked with the Russians to secure the first United Nations Conference in San Francisco.
Harry may have been a very sick man, but his lack of time and energy forced him to focus on the key issues. Winston Churchill once called him “Lord Root of the Matter”.
How would your organisation have dealt with Harry?
Would you have focused on his illness and retired him off, or recognised his skill and kept him on?
Rather than worrying about developing people’s weaknesses, perhaps there is some merit in playing to their strengths.