Friday, July 17, 2009


I was speaking with a young CEO a few weeks ago. He was complaining that an important member of his team should be able to perform certain tasks, but the member couldn't perform those tasks. He went on to complain that he didn't have the time to do the task.

I made a couple of observations. First, you can't keep acting as if the member can do what they should be able to do. They can't do it. It is like a football coach who has a quarterback who cannot roll to his left and throw an accurate pass. The coach can keep calling the rollout to the left because the quarterback should be able to throw an accurate pass or he can call rollouts to the right where the quarterback can throw an accurate pass. So, don't expect someone to be able to do what they should be able to do if they can't do it. Plan accordingly.

Second, managers get more frustrated with a team member when they are pressed for time (isn't that always?) or when they can't do the task either. The managers say "they should be able to do their job!" Leaders however, acknowledge the truth of the situation. Leaders evaluate how to support the person can't do what they should be able to do. Sometimes more training and education is required. Sometimes additional support is required. And sometimes, the task needs to be done by someone else.

When I had my own firm, we had a former Big 8 accounting firm partner working with us. He had great instincts (probably still does) and did great work. However, he could not commit his work to writing. He literally couldn't get a report out. After speaking with him a few times, it became clear to me that he was not able to put it on paper. Instead of complaining about it, I found a young staff person who was progressing rapidly. The staff person wrote great reports. So I 'velcroed' the staff person to the senior person and he became the report writer. The staff person benefitted greatly from the constant exposure to the senior person.

In closing, work with "what is" not "what should be".

Cheers, Mike

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