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Leadership Thought #293 – Set People Up For Success


One of my least favorite sayings I hear from business owners is that “we throw people into the deep end of the pool and see if they can swim.”  What a bunch of nonsense!  As a leader it is incumbent upon you to make sure your people have the job clarity, tools, resources and training to be successful.  You are supposed to set people up for success not push them towards failure.  Darwinian logic misapplied to the work environment is professional malpractice.

People are supposed to be successful because of you not in spite of you.  When they make the decision to join your organization they are literally putting their future in your hands.  No one starts a job wanting to fail although sometimes they do overreach.  It should be expected that the company would do the necessary filtering to ensure the candidate has the basic skills and background to do the job.  In addition, screening applicants for cultural fit is equally as important as validating their technical qualifications.  However, once the hiring decision is made the company should be fully committed to a successful outcome.

I’ve heard it said that employees decide within the first 2-6 weeks whether or the company and position will be a good long term fit for them.  So, the first thing your organization needs to do is ensure that there is a strong on-boarding process in place.   Don’t just show them their desk, provide technology tools, give them the employee manual, and have them sign HR paperwork and figure you’ve done your part as a new employer. The first two weeks of employment should be mostly scheduled with meetings/trainings and other activities that integrate them into the company and provide clarity and as to how to be successful in their role. It is also critical that all new hires meet and get acquainted with other people integral to the performance of their responsibilities. 

Once employees are successfully oriented they should have the structure of weekly feedback interactions with their supervisor (which can become bi-weekly as things become more settled). Never rely on ad hoc situational management as the primary communication tool.  Every position should have a job description with clearly defined performance metrics and these should be tracked on as frequent a basis as possible.  Skills gaps should be identified and a performance development plan put in place to get the individual up to speed quickly.  I am also a fan of assigning all new employees an experienced mentor who isn’t their direct supervisor but who is charged with helping them navigate the early stage development of their career within the company and navigating political and cultural dynamics.  HR, or someone senior if it is a small company, should formally check-in with employees and their supervisor at the 6 week, 6 month and 18 month milestones to see how things are progressing.

Lastly, your job as a supervisor/manager is to never knowingly put someone in a situation that plays to their weaknesses and leaves them unnecessarily vulnerable.  To do this effectively, you need to a) intimately get to know your people including their strengths and shortcomings as employees/people; b) be honest with them about this reality; c) don’t overload them with more than they can possibly handle; d) assist them with prioritizing their workload; and e) help them anticipate and respond to events outside of their control.   And, if they do screw up, then make sure they learn from the experience and move on (although repeated mistakes shouldn’t be tolerated).

Bottom line is to always put yourself in the other person’s shoes.  Ask yourself, what would you want from your boss if you were them?  It’s not rocket science.  Think about some of the best supervisors/ managers you’ve had over the years and try to emulate their positive behaviors.  Leverage your experience to the employees benefit while at the same time expecting and allowing them to take initiative and grow in a measured thoughtful way.  The fast track is often a pathway to failure if you are not careful especially if there are no guard rails and the race is unfair to begin with.

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  1. […]  Set Up People for Success (edrobinson.wordpress.com)  […]

  2. […] Leadership Thought #293 – Set People Up For Success (edrobinson.wordpress.com) […]

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