Beggars can’t be choosers

Beggars can’t be choosers

Really- why not?

I hear this phrase far too often from managers who are now urgently rushing to fill an open position. Perhaps someone quit on short notice, or an employee on leave decided not to come back. Or you had to take decisive action to terminate an employee whose behavior warranted such a quick outcome.

Moral of the story? Here you are scrambling to find “someone good” on short notice.

And everyone on your team is feeling the pain, because they are picking up the workload for the missing person, most likely doing tasks that are unfamiliar or not in their area of expertise.

What does the team want? A new, awesome, fabulous team mate (who needs no training) – and make it quick! Can she start tomorrow?

Despite the apparent urgency of the situation, you know what I am going to tell you next….

“Take your time to find the right person.”

In the midst of your crisis, pause, take a breath, and met me remind you what is at stake

Hiring an A player may take a few more weeks of recruiting, more focused and stringent selection, and passing up on “good enough” candidates who can start tomorrow. But that A Player who starts in 4 weeks will likely learn the job more quickly, be an asset to the team right away, and be performing at a higher level in six months.

Rushing to settle for a C player (usually a perfectly nice person who was a decent performer at a prior job, but NOT a fit for your job) means a few weeks saved now, and hundreds of hours lost later.

C Player’s are estimated to take 25% of a managers time—the one or two people on your team who struggle with the job knowledge, performance expectations, or do not match the attitude and culture you need can suck 10 hours a week!

Do the math- 10-20 hours now versus 500 hours next year … and that does not count the actual and opportunity cost of lower quality or service, slow processes, lost sales, unhappy customers, unhappy co-workers, and unhappy managers.

You are not a beggar, and you can be choosy! Only settle for A Players with a 90% chance of success.

There are fabulous candidates out there—but you have to cast a wider net, be more selective and systematic in your selection, and wait until you have found “the one.”

Learn more: 

Read our articles on “selection” to find out more about what you can do to evaluate and validate your candidate’s job fit.

Read our article about how to always be scouting for talent and building a virtual bench, so that you are not scrambling for applicants next time!


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Sinking or Swimming After a Promotion?

Sinking or Swimming After a Promotion?

It’s a common story- Jane was great at her job– a quick learner eager to do more. So you gave her more– a whole lot more. But now she seems overwhelmed, unsure, and downright frazzled.

Will she start swimming and get her head back above water?

It depends—does she lack easily trainable skills or is the gap due to a mismatch of personality or competency?
The first step when you encounter the aftermath of a well-meaning major assignment or promotion is to chat with Jane. Where does she think she is struggling? Is there a specific area you can pinpoint where a bit of support or coaching would help?

Let’s say you promoted Jane to a team leader for her customer service group, and her tasks now include scheduling 10 reps across two shifts, weekly reports for the manager, and handling escalated calls. This is in addition to continuing to work as a customer service rep.

Option 1- Time and Training will work

As an example of a quick fix- Jane A explains that she is still learning the scheduling software and this is taking several more hours for her to complete the weekly schedule. This has caused her to finish the weekly department report late. She anticipates that she will be on track in a week or two, as she is quickly mastering this complicated tool. You suggest that she has the manager spends a few minutes showing her how he uses shortcuts to expedite that task. After two weeks she is indeed on top of the new assignment’s and on time.

Option 2- Re-evaluate Job Fit and Duties

On the other hand, Jane B seems to be avoiding the weekly reports in favor of taking customer calls. She reports that she has not “had time” to train on the scheduling module. Last week she hastily put together on an incomplete schedule that didn’t provide enough coverage during peak hours. The first two weeks her weekly reports were 5 days late and missing key data. In your conversations, it seems that Jane may lack the planning and organizing competency that these new tasks require to be effective. To be fair, you ask her manager to give her a bit more training on how to do those tasks, to see if training will be the answer. But if she does not start making improvements in a few weeks, you might conclude the pattern of job fit is at work.

Want to learn more?
Find out how about how to identify the three main reasons someone isn’t keeping up (gap in ability, motivation or values) in our webinar “Evaluating Your Current Team for Job Fit.”
See our current webinar schedule and register here: People Plan Webinars

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Training won’t solve an issue with Job Fit

Training won’t solve an issue with Job Fit

The following is a version of a conversation I have regularly with clients:

Client: “We really need some help with our sales process. Some of our bids require hours of preparation and document gathering. Our estimator needed extra help as he uses all his time to get vendor estimates and compute the final price. So he had Mary take over the non-pricing part of the bid.”

Diana: “So how did that work?”

Client: “Well, Mary started well, but the day before the bid she seems frazzled and needed the estimator to help her finish the packet.”

Diana: “So did you win the work?”

Client: “No, the bid was disqualified because it was missing two important documents.”

Diana: “Was there a list of all requirements in the bid package?”

Client: “Yup- right in the first two pages, there was a checklist of every required items.”

Diana: “Okay, we have two areas to concentrate.

First, you might want to talk about process improvement—what could be done better for the next bid. (For example, one person is responsible to double-check everything is there 2 days before the bid is due.)

I would suggest you get those involved in the bid process in a room and outline and clarify the ideal process and timeline, and then assign responsibility.”

The second area- Do you see a trend in Mary’s performance in planning of projects and detail orientation? Is she normally prepared with every item needed, well in advance of a deadline? Does she “future pace” what is coming next, reaching out to others to get what she needs to do her part of the project?

Or do you see the frantic last minute dash to pull something together at the last minute, and then something is usually forgotten?”

This is a function of job fit, some people are comfortable working in the moment, and do not typically focus on the future requirements. Some people have the opposite work habits- they setup checklists, verify that the list is complete and double check everything.

Planning and organizing is a competency—a soft skill that is based on our consistent personality traits, and can be somewhat refined and developed. (And you  can assess for this in the hiring process with a basic personality assessment).

If you step back and evaluate the trend of someone’s work habits, you will likely see a clear pattern of planning and organizing behaviors and results.

If Mary has not demonstrated a strong competency in planning and organizing, the solution is to give those tasks with someone else who has a stronger competency in this area (higher job fit). And then find short term and less detailed and crucial tasks that are a better job fit for Mary (increase her job fit).

Training and systems are most effective if someone already has the competency/ job fit in that area.

Want to learn more?

Find out how about how to identify the three main reasons someone isn’t keeping up (gap in ability, motivation or values) in our webinar “Evaluating Your Current Team for Job Fit.”

See our current webinar schedule and register here: People Plan Webinars

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Was she really “trained?”

Was she really “trained?”

When we have an employee who seems to be struggling with part of the job, we think back and exclaim “but she was trained!”

Often a person has been “trained” but still does not adequately complete the job duties.

There are multiple reasons “training” doesn’t succeed:

  • It was not comprehensive enough- just covering the basics does not convey enough information
  • It was given too fast in too short a period of time (everyone learns at a different rate)
  • The trainer only demonstrated the skill, and did not have the trainee practice it twice with coaching
  • Training did not match the learner’s best learning method (Some people learn better by listening, some via doing it, some by reading)
  • The trainer did not have adequate knowledge or verbal skills to impart all informa tion (if someone knows 70% then they train 70% of that and trainee gets 49% of it.

The basic solution is to re-visit the skill or knowledge that needs to be taught, and to systematically review this information.

Seasoned trainers also regularly check to make sure the trainee is absorbing the information, by asking for some sort of demonstration of learning. (“Okay, now I would like you to show me how you would enter a new order.”)

Once you have verified that the person was adequately trained or re-trained, you need to keep the knowledge active. Give the person the opportunity to use it periodically and coach for improvement.

If you don’t see improvement over time then you have your answer “will training help?” – and look for other causes (usually job fit related).

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Will training help?

Will training help?

We have all worked with an employee (perhaps you know one now) that does not seem to ever “get” a part of the job, or who continues to struggle with something longer than expected.

For example, you show this person how to create a report three times over three months, but in month 4 she asks for help again. Or he normally can handle the tasks you delegate, but every once in a while he seems flustered and avoids finishing those that require advanced planning.

What could be the cause? I don’t know! Part of people coaching is diagnostic—looking at trends and asking questions to uncover the reason behind a performance gap. And that is what you have to do to answer the question “Will training help?”

Three areas where training is less effective:

  • an underlying attitude issue (lack of commitment to job or company)
  • if someone’s personal values / beliefs don’t match organization values
  • lack of job fit (due to personality traits or competency that don’t match up)

If you uncover that the “root cause” of the performance gap is ability, then you have a situation where training can improve performance.

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10 Reasons Why Employees Don’t Do the Job – Part 1

10 Reasons Why Employees Don’t Do the Job – Part 1

Determining the cause of a performance issue can be like being a detective– here is a list of 10 major reasons employees “don’t do the job” with possible solutions.

Source: Expectations

1. They don’t know what to do
2. They think they are doing it
Solution: I read many job descriptions—hundreds per year from dozens of organizations—rarely do they clarify for me the specific job activities and key results areas, much less how the job will be measured. It is difficult to hold someone accountable to results when the manager has not made it crystal clear what those results should be and what s/he has to do to get those results. Otherwise employees just take their best guess and do what seems to be the most urgent.

3. They think something else is more important
Solution: A great survey report showed that employees only agree with managers on 1 out of 3 priorities! Frequent coaching and follow up makes sure that what a person is working on is the highest priority for the job and department. An employee does the best she can reading the tea leaves to guess what her manager thinks is priority. Don’t make them guess… also, remember employees often don’t have the broader view or much information outside of their own activities (and yes, the more they do the better decisions they will make.)

Source: Training

4. They don’t know how to do it
Solution: Work with employee to identify skill or competency to enhance with training, create a training plan with a timeline and hold employee accountable to stick to the plan (even if it means reminding her manager to schedule the time or resources).

5. They are uncomfortable doing it
Solution: Sometimes a little training can increase someone’s confidence and they become “comfortable” with the task and then perform it regularly. More likely this is a symptom of job fit—someone’s personality traits or competencies are not aligned with those required to excel in the job. A classic example is “asking for the sale”— a person who is cooperative (lower assertive) can be trained for years on sales techniques and given scripts, but he is always uncomfortable closing. For job fit, the remedy is to change the job duties to ones that correspond with the person’s strengths and attributes.

Source: Feedback/ Recognition

6. They can do it but don’t want to
7. They are rewarded for not doing it
8. They are not rewarded when they do it

Solution: This is fundamental psychology. People do what is measured and recognized and rewarded. If they are not rewarded (or worse, “punished”) for doing something, most people stop doing it. Sales people don’t like to do paperwork—but they also don’t want to be reminded that they were late 9 of the last 10 weeks—this is powerful feedback.

Often the signals sent by managers are unintended. Do you reward your poor performers by giving extra work to others that you can depend on? Do you remember to praise and even publicly recognize the team that worked last weekend to finish up a project?

For ideas on how to recognize the Right Things, read blog post “Quick Recognition Template”

Source: Belief

9. They don’t know why they should do it

Solution: Some people will blindly follow rules, but most want to know the “why” behind something that they are asked to do. It they believe a task or process is x (insert label here: low importance, arbitrary, a waste of time, or just plain stupid), no amount of training will effect a change in behavior. You might get begrudging compliance but that is about it. To get commitment, you have to explain the “why” to change the belief. (Until they believe his IS important, worth my time, etc.)

10. They think their way is better.

Solution: Read the solution above… plus this often happens when you ask someone who is good/ comfortable with the “old way” and now you have a “new way.” And in the beginning, the old way is better since an employee is more comfortable and competent in the old way. A big part of culture change and process change is to overcome the belief that the old way is better.

A key personality trait is openness to new experiences and some people are not. They will cling to the things they know how to do. As a manager you will need to support and coach these employees through the pain and fear that comes with change. Recognize that this is more deep seeded than just a training issue, but a consistent personality trait or a cognitive filter (belief) and be patient and supportive, and work through changing the belief, not just behavior.

As a client’s manager once stated, “if we have 100 people then we have 100 different personalities.” It’s your job as a manager to figure out what is the cause and the solution that works for all the unique individuals on your team.