Talent Mismanagement, or “How to Lose a Keeper”

Have you ever been mismanaged? Conversely, have you ever unknowingly mismanaged someone? Is it possible that you are mismanaging someone now? Here’s a true story about management gone wrong that might make you think twice about your current motivation/coaching strategies.

Talent Mismanagement, or How to Lose a Keeper image Mismanagement I QuitTalent Mismanagement, or How to Lose a KeeperSome years ago, at a global consumer packaged goods company, there was an up-and-coming account executive – I’ll call him Anthony. Anthony was bright, educated and professional with well developed people skills, which buyers and senior executives both noticed and liked. In short, he was a keeper. In his first two years with the organization he exceeded expectations and received two promotions to manage larger accounts in different cities. After the third year he was still performing at a high level, but his manager heard that he might not be happy in his position.

If you were Anthony’s coach/manager, what would you do at this point?

Here’s what happened: Anthony’s manager didn’t discuss his performance review with him. Instead, believing he had a better idea, he asked the Vice President of Sales to do so. The VP of Sales invited Anthony for a special lunch at a prominent (and very expensive) restaurant. During the lunch, he praised Anthony for his remarkable performance. He then went further, and revealed some additional news: although there was no immediate promotion position available, Anthony was being given a new title along with a rather sizable salary increase.

If you think this was the right approach then you may be surprised to hear what happened after that lunch meeting. Three weeks later, Anthony announced his resignation. His manager and many others who worked with him were stunned by his announcement. When Anthony left two months later his manager, John, was even more perplexed to discover that he had left for a position with a considerable reduction in salary and job responsibility.

Talent Mismanagement, or How to Lose a Keeper image bz mznTalent Mismanagement, or How to Lose a KeeperAs it turned out, Anthony was very family-oriented, and spending time with extended family was an important part of his life. The moves to cover new accounts in different cities had been hard on him. With his manager still unaware of the intensity of this need, Anthony chose to leave the company to accept a lesser job that allowed him to return to live in his home city.

There was a universal assumption within the organization that a pay raise and title were significant motivators. Anthony’s manager and VP both believed that the increased salary and new job title would be sufficient to bolster Anthony’s morale and serve to engage his continued performance. Obviously the tactic failed, and the organization lost a great performer, impacting both the immediate bottom line and the performance of those who were working with him.

The moral of this story is this – if an organization or manager fails to really understand the different motivators of their talent, then they run the risk of failing to retain top performers. To sustain high performance we need to be in tune with those we coach/lead. Do you know what’s important to each of your team members and direct reports? Or do you assume that what motivates you also motivates them? Equally important is acting on this information once you have it – once you know what motivates them, how are you building it into their jobs? For example, if a person needs/enjoys learning, have you engaged them in new opportunities for learning in the coming year? Have you tried to fit them on project teams that provide the learning opportunities they crave? If you don’t know what drives your people, ask them – or you may indeed be mismanaging the talent on your team.

P.S. If you would like to better understand one – or all – of your team members, allow us to introduce you to a few of our online profiles. They assist you (and them) in understanding what motivates them most, as well as how to communicate with/ coach them most effectively. Click here for more information.

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