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Business Observer Friday, Aug. 13, 2004 18 years ago

Right Employee, Wrong Slot

Lou Lasday, an independent marketing adviser who resides on Longboat Key, discusses making smart employee choices.

Right Employee, Wrong Slot

With all the elements that an entrepreneur can't control - the economy, the competition, health care costs, the market, labor rates, insurance, utilities, rents and more - you would think that maximum attention would be focused on the one thing that can be controlled - the quality of your management. It's not simply the senior level people as individuals, but how they will operate as a team working together, generating increasingly successful results. Their interaction and support of each other and the corporate mission will be the key factor in making the difference between success and failure.

Most important asset

It is these same leaders that proudly boast that their people are their most important asset. And yet, in an astounding number of cases, the senior and upper middle level leadership would be better served with a total realignment of their existing personnel.

To understand where the round peg best fits, you must fully know everything you can about both the peg and the hole itself. To put it another way, it's imperative to fully understand both the people themselves and the jobs they will handle. You must have intimate knowledge of the individual's core competencies along with his basic values, attitudes, work ethic, sincerity and desires. You should also evaluate his ability to preemptively act and strategically react in accomplishing his task. Then, realistically reappraise the job to be filled. How does it look today? How will it change tomorrow? How will the individual you select perform? How will he lead?

Make certain you're confident

In an uncomfortable number of cases, the entrepreneur simply picks the candidates with whom they are comfortable! That, over selecting the employee who actually has a better skill set. The same is true of promotions. Leaders often rely on staff appraisals that focus on criteria that are too general and totally without focusing on the specific corporate needs to properly perform the function.

All too often, appraisals from advocates such as, "everyone likes him" or often "he thinks quickly on his feet" or "he's loyal" or "he's very friendly" seems to say it all, when in reality those qualities could describe your own house pet. There is more to ask. For example, can he get the new job done better than anyone else?

Each specific management function to be successful has both general and specific non-negotiable criteria - things that a person must be able to perform in order to succeed. It is only specifics that can firmly set the peg comfortably and decisively into the open slot.

Top notch field salesman

may not be able to advance

Perhaps the easiest example to understand is the field sales representative who each year is the top rep in the organization. He's disciplined in visiting his clients, introduces services and even knows the first names of his best customers' wives. When an opportunity comes along to fill the slot of marketing director, it's natural that the top sales rep be brought into the headquarters office to run the sales staff. And yet, when the new executive is late with forecasts, misses quarterly sales targets, loses other top sales reps, adds non-productive costs and can't motivate his team, we're reminded that he was indeed a good sales man. Perhaps that's where he functions best, is happiest, most productive and should remain.

When the right people are in the wrong jobs, it soon becomes apparent that an otherwise smooth transition to future corporate growth patterns has become impaired. The round peg is in the square hole.

Rainmaker needs more than

a weather report

So what's the answer? As the rainmaker, you need to commit virtually half of your time and emotional energy to selecting, appraising, energizing, and developing your second tier. In fact, the very foundation of any great company from Wall Street to Main Street is the way it develops its people; that's because it is they who will develop the company and take it forward.

Remember, the right employee in the wrong slot is like a round peg in a square hole. You just can't make it fit. So, it might be time to reconfigure. Like a puzzle with most pieces at your fingertips start to move them around. With all the pieces in the proper place, with the proper fit you've created a very good picture!

Lou Lasday, an independent marketing adviser who resides on Longboat Key, creates action-oriented strategic corporate initiatives for Gulf Coast emerging companies. A career direct response executive, he has been a general partner of a national marketing communications firm and regional president of the American Marketing Association.

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