Which brings us to a central tenet of a great company: put the right person in the right job. It sounds so obvious and simple, yet it is often not the case. A prime task of managers is to ensure that their people are well utilised, and this requires good knowledge of the individuals who work in the team.
How many people do you know who are struggling to do a job? Most readers will be able to think of at least one person, and the end result in most cases is under-performance.
There are a number of possible reactions to this situation:
Set the person clear deadlines and objectives, then meet regularly to support them through discussion and appropriate coaching.
Ask HR to provide the necessary training and development.
Consider other jobs - a ‘problem person' in one team can be the star of another.
With the backing of HR, work towards moving them out of the company, explaining exactly why it is necessary.
Get the team to pick up the shortfall, so that no one has to face an uncomfortable discussion.
Find a backwater job where they will not cause too much damage.
Unfortunately, the last two options are all too frequently taken up, especially in successful companies where behaviours are not congruent with the principles. The real problem is that people back off from telling the truth.
It is really hard to tell someone that they are not doing a good job. But how hard do you think it is knowing that you are not doing a good job? Remember: everyone wants to go home at the end of the day with a sense of satisfaction and the respect of colleagues. The other thing to remember is that everyone knows what is going on - there are few secrets in organisations. So if I am not getting on well, I know it - and I know you know it too. It is like waiting for the sword of Damocles to fall.
What to do about it?
Start by acknowledging the truth to yourself - ‘face the brutal facts', as Jim Collins says in his book Good to Great. Take a good hard look at what is happening with the person in your team. Consider what work they do well and the areas in which they are falling down.
Have a conversation to find out how they think they are getting on, including how they are doing on a personal level - domestic upheaval impacts on work effectiveness. If you have tracked their work and spoken honestly in one-to-one meetings, there will be few surprises for you or for them. Make clear that change must occur, and find out what help they need to go forward. Book one-to-ones more frequently, and agree regular milestones along the way.
If this is the first time you have spoken honestly about the problems, expect some distress - you have broken the false sense of security. Explain clearly what the problem is and discuss how they should now act/behave. Set goals, milestones and regular follow-up meetings.
Make it clear that you will do all you can to support them in changing, but resist the temptation to establish another false sense of security. Change comes from a feeling of urgency - honest feedback may be just the thing to concentrate the mind on improving performance or identifying a more appropriate role.
Look back at the section on ‘harmlessness' in Chapter 5. This will help you to clarify what is the right action and stick to it.
The concept of ‘right person, right job' begs the question as to whether there is a wrong person. Inevitably, some people will not respond to the positive trust and respect offered to them by a great company, and then the appropriate action must be taken. To pretend all is well in the face of evidence to the contrary is bad for the business and the culture.
However it is also true that most people will respond positively to a nurturing environment, and it is the task of managers to make sure that people are working in the job that does justice to their talent, skill set and personality. Great companies will try all the actions outlined above and then look to other areas of the business that might suit a person better. Jo at Flight Centre sees it as part of her role as area manager to match a person to their best job:
If they are right for the company, we have the job for them somewhere. It's a matter of finding it. I have moved people through a number of possibilities, but mostly we get there in the end.
When you eventually find the right job, the potential that was being limited by the wrong challenge begins to emerge. It is a wonderful experience to see a person thrive - and part of what makes the management task so satisfying.