Issue: Ambitious but unprepared team member
Worker's high ambitions exceed his abilities and attitude
- Article by: LIZ REYER
- Special to the Star Tribune
- July 3, 2011 - 4:13 PM
QOne of the managers who reports to me is convinced that he's executive material. Unfortunately, he hasn't shown the skills or temperament to advance. He hasn't been receptive to my feedback; how should I handle this?
ATry new approaches and concrete suggestions to get through to him; if he won't tune in, then he's limiting himself.
The inner game
First, take a step back and have a second look at this manager. Is it just your opinion that he hasn't demonstrated his readiness to advance, or is it a perspective shared by others? And, if you feel any annoyance related to his lack of responsiveness to your feedback, strive to set it aside.
Then evaluate the feedback you've given him. Have you listened to him or talked at him? Notice where your communication skills may have been the issue rather than his receptivity to your advice.
Once you've addressed the aspects you control, give some thought to his goals. What do you know about his aspirations and factors that motivate him? Gaining a deeper understanding may help you find the key to communicating with him. It may also give more clarity to the areas that he most needs to develop. It will also help you see if he has the long-term potential to reach his goals or if he truly seems to be over-reaching.
Determine the role you'd like to have in his professional development. As his manager, it's partly your job to help him develop. Ideally, how would you see yourself supporting him? And what are your limits?
The outer game
Your role as his boss is to encourage, provide reality checks, and help find resources; however, you are not responsible for the outcomes he achieves -- he is.
As a first step, set up a time to talk with him, providing the agenda in advance. The topics: his goals, the steps he sees as milestones to get there, the barriers he could face, and ways he could overcome them. Many people with big but ungrounded ambitions have not taken the time to think through the details; this conversation -- ideally the first of many -- may help him become more concrete. In this conversation, you're also giving him the benefit of the doubt that he may have "what it takes" to move to the highest levels. If he remains in denial or doesn't want to hear a realistic perspective, you have an opening to discuss how this will limit him.
It's also possible that you two just don't click, and that someone else may be better suited to mentor him. Talk to others in leadership at your company to see if you can find a fit. If you deem him a high-potential employee, you may want to consider a 360 feedback session and an external coach for him.
If, on the other hand, his aspirations and attitude are interfering with his performance, you may want to start counseling him out of the organization.
The last word
Give him a chance to step up, but also push to try to get him to a more realistic perspective. This will give him the best opportunity for success.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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