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Take Your Skills and Call Me in the Morning – Part 2

What to do when a person doesn’t develop the skills. Let’s assume you have followed the steps I suggested in Part 1 and you have a team member who just hasn’t developed the skills needed to do the job. You are finding that their results are still below what is required of the position. Your job now is to:

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In Part 1 of this post, I introduced the Value Formula, which is V = K + S + A. This means that our “value” to our team is really a combination of our “knowledge, skills, and attitude.” I then wrote about how as a leader we need to effectively develop the skill capacity of our team, one person at a time. To do this effectively we need to be aware of whether the individual has the desire to develop the skills or not. And if not, how do we coach them to move on.

What to do when a person doesn’t develop the skills

Let’s assume you have followed the steps I suggested in Part 1 and you have a team member who just hasn’t developed the skills needed to do the job. You are finding that their results are still below what is required of the position. Your job now is to:

Help the person discover whether they have the “desire” to learn the skills;

If they have the desire, help them develop their skill-strengthening plan or if they don’t have the desire, help them figure-out their exit plan.

Our Business Developer Example

We had someone in our organization, who I’ll call Harry. He was hired to be a business developer. The primary objective for Harry was to secure employment positions for the individuals we serve. Harry went through our training program and by the third month still had not placed anyone.

Four important skills people need to do this job successfully are: 1) Research companies using the internet; 2) Make numerous telephone calls to locate and speak with employers; 3) Enter accurate information into a Web-based database; and 4) Follow-through on next steps or next actions. Some people have talents that help them learn and perform these skills naturally – they might be extroverted and enjoy talking with people or they may have a high sense of urgency, for example.

It was now clear to Harry’s supervisor that although Harry first appeared to be naturally extroverted he had not developed the other skills required for the job and definitely did not have a sense of urgency. The supervisor had helped Harry set weekly objectives and for the period of a month Harry hadn’t achieved the objectives. For example, he had only called 45 qualified companies a week when the proven standard was 100, and he had consistently only completed about 50% of his follow-up actions. (See the corresponding Table.)

His supervisor was now at the step in our process when he could choose to terminate Harry. If he chose to do this, Harry would likely resent the supervisor and retain a negative impression of the company. However, this supervisor chose to have a conversation with Harry to help him understand what might be happening.

The “Harry” Conversation

Choosing to coach Harry, his supervisor likely asked these questions:

  1. You have been with us now for three months, how do you think you are doing?
  2. What skills do you think are needed to do this job successfully?
  3. Have we showed you how to develop these skills?
  4. How well do you think you have developed them?a. If Harry is in denial and said he had developed the skills well, the supervisor would state the outcomes and engage Harry in a discovery discussion using several “why” questions.
    b. If Harry acknowledged his under performance, the supervisor would likely ask Harry what he thought Harry would need to do differently to immediately change the results?
    c. The goal of this question is to get Harry to see he is under performing and explore why. Skills are developed after practicing and Harry isn’t practicing enough. Explore why and get Harry to see whether the job really interests him or not.
  5. Harry, I’m going to review your activity and outcomes every day now, do you think this increased level of oversight will be helpful to you? (If not, explore why. If yes, talk about what the goal is – Harry should be able to do the level of activity without daily monitoring.)
  6. If you and I discover in the days ahead that you aren’t able to achieve these outcomes, what do you think should happen next?
  7. Supervisor helps Harry think through whether he could apply for a transfer to another position that better fits Harry’s developed skills or his interests. If there were no other positions, supervisor could help Harry think through whether it would be better for Harry to resign or wait until the supervisor has to terminate him.
  8. Supervisor suggested that Harry take a night to think through the conversation and they would touch base in the morning.

What happened? Harry acknowledged that the skills we wanted people to develop were important and that he just didn’t enjoy working hard to develop them. In his case, another position became available and Harry transferred to it. He is doing well.

We have many other “Harry” examples of when others have self-selected and chosen to leave our organization and go elsewhere. And when we followed this process, they left with a new understanding of themselves and respect for their supervisor and our company.