Sunday, July 5, 2009

Follow up to "Yet another definition of Leadership"

It certainly is critical for a leader to be able to recognize the skills, talents, and abilities of their team members. But that is not enough. What good is it if you, as a leader, can see ability in your people, but you DO nothing about it? You MUST tell those people that you see that talent in them. And, you must find a way to put those people in positions to highlight their talents. This is what Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, refers to as "having the right people in the right seats on the bus".

Recently, I worked with a client who runs a manufacturing plant. He and his leadership team hired a talented young woman with a particular set of skills that the plant was lacking. The young woman would report directly to the department head who did not have the same skills as the new hire, but who had a different set of complimentary skills. My client thought that the match would be ideal. There was even thought that the new hire would develop into becoming the successor to the department head.

A few months later, my client was disappointed in the performance of the new hire. She was "rubbing people the wrong way" and seemed to have an overall abrupt nature to her. My client had come to the conclusion that she was just not going to be the person to succeed the department head. She just didn't have the people skills, my client said.

Upon some investigation, including a conversation with the department head, it became clear that the new hire was never put into a position to succeed. She was not given an opportunity to use the skills that the company had hired her for...and she had become frustrated. For one reason or another, the department head required to be involved in all aspects of the new hire's job. If another department had a question that was in the area of expertise of the new hire, she was not allowed to answer it directly. She had to first go to the department head. The new hire was being micromanaged.

This type of management might be appropriate to use with someone who has demonstrated a lack of competency or trustworthiness. But that was not the case with this new hire. She had never been given the chance to prove herself. She was hired, with great excitement, being told that she was going to be a great asset to the company. But after starting, the actions did not match the words.

Consequently, when the department head took a leave of absence, the performance and attitude of the new hire improved dramatically! She finally felt like she was doing what she was hired to do. The positive change was felt throughout the department.

Remember, the talent on your team wants to be "in the game." People are happiest and most productive when they feel that they are contributing. You, as a leader, NEED that contribution...at the highest possible level. If your talented team members don't feel that way in your organization, they will likely find another organization where they will. And they make take others with them.

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