Does your senior staff member have the skills to get the job done?

It seems like this is a pretty simple question that should have a simple “yes or no” answer, right?

Yet I’ve been asked to weigh in on this question quite frequently, and in my experience there’s a lot more nuance to it than first meets the eye.

When I lead organizations through transitions, or help organizations increase revenue and guide them to create stronger and more cohesive teams, I face this question a lot, and it’s seldom as simple as “yes or no.”

In most cases (yes, there are exceptions) the leaders and senior staff members do have the baseline skill set needed to “do” the job and, even more exciting, I’ve found that there are ways to quickly create a positive shift in performance and engagement, and reveal their capacity to become extraordinary leaders.

Now, before you say that your situation IS one of the exceptions, l’d like to suggest that you first take a moment to step back, and make 5 Strategic Choices that may shift your perspective, or at least give you some additional information to consider that may not be visible on the surface.

  1. Choose this “come from”:  Every person who has applied to and been hired to work for you, wants to do a good job, and wants to make a difference.  Take that as a fact.
  2. Observe…Yourself!  Before you jump to a decision that could have long term impact on your organization, take a moment to more fully observe what you are reacting to.  Did this individuals’ work product reflect poorly on you, or impact you in a negative way (time, resources, reputation, etc.)?  Are their actions triggering a re-action that comes from your fear, insecurity, concern? Simply notice and reflect.
  3. Ask Yourself, Why?  Why isn’t the employee delivering the results that you need?  What are the contributing factors to their failure/disconnect, and what role do you as a leader play in this?  Do they have what they need (information, support, resources, inspiration) to do their best work?  In the context of your organization’s goals, what do you need in your team now?  Is that different from when they were first hired? Are there key decisions, or clarity needed that – when addressed – could resolve confusion, uncertainty, fear (which can often show up as lack of initiative, not following through, even a bad attitude)? Is the exciting and inspiring big-picture context and vision that YOU have, trickling down to your team?  Do they have something exciting and important that are they working towards? Are there skills that can be taught/coached?
  4. What value DO they provide?  Make a list.  In some cases, I’ve seen this exercise alone become a catalyst for positive change. Look, it’s “easy” to see a person’s faults and shortcomings.  We ALL have them. If we focus on the lack, they will focus on that, and you will likely continue to get the (bad) result that you anticipated.  You will be “right”.  However, as a consequence for being “right”, you will need to spend significant time and resources to recruit, interview, and onboard someone new.  Your organization may lose momentum, and experience negative morale.
  5. Set your intention to invest in your people.  In the context of the IMPACT you want to have as an organization, determine how can you help your team “get” there.  There are many great resources available on the ROI of investing in staff, developing leadership, etc. but the challenge comes when we want to make exceptions to investing, because someone “doesn’t have the skills we need, doesn’t deliver the results that are needed, or just doesn’t get our priorities,” or is “incompetent.”

Now, of course, there are times when changes must be made, and swiftly, in order to ensure that our mission-driven organizations continue to uphold the standards our community expects of us.  These 5 Strategic “Choices” are not meant to replace performance reviews and supervisory best practices.

Instead, consider them as a tool to do due diligence (especially when faced with the pressures and demands of running a business) and as a reminder to make sure that WE as leaders are doing our best to help those around us do their best work.

What challenges is YOUR organization experiencing right now? Are you in the midst of a transition? Are you setting big revenue goals?  Let me know what’s happening where YOU are, and let’s see if I can help you gain some new insights!