You Can Not Train People to Think Bigger or With More Complexity Than They are Currently Capable

Tadpole to frog

We know the ‘Peter Principle’ exist and we all laugh about it.

Very few companies know how to deal with it and they repeat the same mistakes, knowing that they are creating failure and organizational chaos.

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.

Promoted beyond ability and what to do about it

What to do?

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?

Only if you have determined they have the ability to fill the role – and they are lacking some skilled-knowledge do you offer coaching and development

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?

Team Building Leadership Innovation expert Michael Cardus

michael cardus is create-learning

Link to original post

Leave a Reply