We know the ‘Peter Principle’ exist and we all laugh about it.
Unfortunately the employee, that is now in the role that they cannot adequately fill, is usually punished by termination or sent to training.
You cannot teach a tadpole to be a frog by giving it jumping lessons.
People cannot be taught, coached, developed and/or trained to work at a level of complexity above what they are capable of doing.
The only way that people grow into their potential is through;
- maturation (growing older)
- having a manager who is able to determine the persons capacity and allow them to work at their full capacity. avoiding underemployment
- personal ability to gain wisdom through successes & failures
- maturation of innate ability to handle complexity and make sense of longer time-spans of work
If a person is placed into a work-role that is too far outside their capacity disaster happens – personally and organizationally.
It does not have to be a management position – if you see the behaviors below, quality of work deteriorating, lateness of the work increasing, plus obvious behavior changes – that person is in over their head.
What to do?
- Minimize the amount of levels in the organization.
- Institute a Talent Pool Development and Succession Plan, that is focused on maturation and development tracks based upon Current-Actual-Capability and Potential-Capability.
- Have organizational knowledge of the level-of-work for each role and the planning + time-span and requisite skilled-knowledge that is successful in that role.
- Only place people who have the complexity-processing, evidenced through experience, in the positions.
- Match the complexity of the role and the person.
- Hold the manager accountable for the output of their staff AND ensure they have the necessary accountability + authority to deselect staff that are not doing doing the work.
If you notice that a person is struggling with a new position. Before you try to train or fix them. Determine
- a) is this person really capable of doing the work within this role as it stands right now;
- b) have we as the organization done due diligence in determining the time-span and level of work within this role and communicated that clearly to their manager and them?
- c) is their direct manager ‘Big Enough’ to frame the context of the work, and add value to their work?
- d) what evidence do we have that clearly shows this person can do the work?
- e) if we find that the organization has failed…what steps will be taken to mitigate the damage caused AND how can we ensure that this person is dealt with fairly. Therefore building trust within our organization.
- f) if they are the wrong person for the role – what options exist?
Otherwise you are trying to teach a tadpole to be a frog by giving it jumping lessons.
What do you think?
Have you seen your own maturation lead to greater knowledge in complexity of the work? Examples of where you sent or went to a training and still could not rise to the level of the role? How does your company handle promotion / hires that just turn out to not be right?
michael cardus is create-learning