Learn and Lead

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Would You Fire Your Best Performer?

Sanjay is a great team leader aspiring to be a manager. He has shown good results in the projects he has handled. He has shown willingness to go the extra mile in the tasks assigned. He has been constantly told he is a great performer and the company would not like to lose a great team leader. Regular feedback and company awards have made him proud and self confident. However he has had some issues in his ability to handle larger projects and teams. His view of the industry is relatively narrow. His view of a manager’s role is limited and his attitude is bordering towards arrogance and over confidence. He is closed to any feedback about his limitations and refuses to accept inputs to improve his abilities to become a good manager. He will not get the manager’s position that he is aspiring for. He has thrown tantrums that he will start looking for another job that gives him the promotion that he believes he deserves.

Would you simply wait for him to quit his job, paying him while he finds another job? Or would you fire your best performer who is great at the current role but not ready for the next role? Or would you give in to the tantrums and promote him even though he is not ready for the role?

With the job market opening up and companies vying for talent, I foresee a repeat of what was happening couple of years ago. Given the paucity of talent people were promoted to roles they just weren’t ready for. Do you think this will happen again?


Dominic Rajesh said...

I believe that this is not a problem that's going to stop! With the competition for talent, this problem is bound to amplify.

It calls for great restraint, integrity and character to let go of such Best performers who do not fit the overall picture.

Chris said...

This is a perfect account of the Peter principle - that people get promoted until they end up in job that they are not suited for and are therefore incompetant at doing.

Selvi said...

The subject above only gives a point of the Manager view and not the team leader. This post is contradictory in itself. Says he is a good performer and then has less knowledge about the industry, then the company also rewards him. I have lead teams of more than 50 at a time and such has not been the case ever and now i lead a team of managers.

Has this been evaluated from a 360 deg point of view or only from a bunch of managers who see this person as a great threat to their own job and calibre? Its time that the manager takes a look at his own abilities. I also read this as insecurity on part of the manager.

Also i think it is a big failure on the part of a manager who cant mould and promote such a good performer. I would rather fire the manager who cant perform his job well.

Columbus said...

i would let the person go. it does not matter that the past was successful- that's baggage. competence is for the role, and not career.
while the notion of competence needs a 360 perspective, that's evaluation. take the individual out of the equation, and think tasks , and required skills for task-accomplishment.

Sonia Sant said...

This is a lopsided view, more from what he does not know. The question is not what he can or cannot do, it is how his manager has given him feedback. Has his manager ever given him a feedforward? And then the question is not what the manager has done. What has the system done to enable both in becoming aware and moving forward. Has the system provided good support systems that elicit their solutions and strategies and see the situation from different perspectives. Have they been coached or simply asked to attend softskill trainings?
Coaching is critical for professionals who are seen as potential candidates for next role. If they are coached, organizations will neither loose talent, but will have dedicated and long run employees. So he and his manager must be given coaching support not by their managers but neutral external..

Sandeep said...

I agree with Selvi and Sonia Sant. I know a lot of organizations and managers do not recognize the performance for the fear of making the guy overconfident just because of what they think. There is absence of 360 degree opinion in the industry. And, then at times there is also fear of competition. I have seen so many people who are happy doing their jobs and are also rewarded simply because they do not pose a threat to the manager whose opinion is taken as God's word on how the guy's career has to go. This is a ironical situation and your competitor is deciding your fate while using his/her superior position. The guy in this story is lucky that he is being rewarded for his performance. There are many times when the performance is unnoticed if the guy seems to be ambitious. And then, the guy has to move on to another organization to give himself one more chance at proving himself. Suddenly, the old organization realizes that their strategy of retaining the talent has backfired. There are also times when Management stops promotion when they think the guy may not follow their work practices and might be critical of their way of working. And unlike the general perception, the management is most resistant to change.

Manish Mohan said...

@Selvi, @Sandeep, @Sonia -- this IS from a manager's point of view only. As a manager you will encounter many situations that may require decisions of this nature. Consider this as a coaching post. Put yourself in this manager's shoes and think what you would do.

Vijeesh Shankar said...

If Sanjay is not open to feedback and is adamant that he has to be promoted, let him handle a not so critical client and learn from his mistakes. But then if he doesn't learn, I feel one should let him go. In most cases, a person of this profile feels that he will be able to do better in a different environment. Nothing would interest him to continue. If not from here, he will learn it in the other company and he might return :)

Sundar said...

Identify his improvement areas, invite him to a discussion, and develop a training plan to help him develop those skills and behaviors. If the manager can reason out to him that his promotion would depend on his training results, it would be a win-win situation. If this training plan is attached to his performance evaluation, it is bound to be a transparent deal between the organization and the employee.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my personal opinions. Content published here is not read or approved in advance by my employers and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of my employers.

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