Do You Have The Right Stuff?

I asked a freshly minted VP at a Fortune 50 company who has steadily risen through the ranks what he believed led to this and previous promotions. His answer echoed one I have heard from other executives as well:

Above view of consultant shaking hands with her client

  • I am proactive
  • Follow up
  • Get stuff done
  • Am helpful

He takes for granted his technical expertise. But then again. he is surrounded by technical expertise. He wishes he were surrounded by more people who are proactive, follow up, and get stuff done! And he isn’t the only one. Many executives and managers share that wish.

What can you do?

1. Examine your hiring practices.

Are you seeking degrees and qualifications that can be taught? Or people with a track record of being proactive, following up, getting stuff done, and being helpful?

2. Evaluate the expectations you set.

Are expectations clear? Really clear? So employees know what is important, why, and what must be different when they are done? Or do you dish out tasks, worry about hours, and spare your employees from having to understand too much?

3. Take a look at your performance management practices.

Do you evaluate employees on these four characteristics? Or do you praise the firefighters who often cause the fires because they don’t exhibit these qualities? Do you reward those who were lucky enough to be assigned to the right project at the right time or those who get stuff done regardless of the project they are assigned?

4. Consider the feedback you provide.

When you wish your employees had been more proactive, followed up more carefully, gotten something done, and been more helpful, do you talk to them about it? Do you have any idea whether they are missing the necessary awareness, skill, or attitude?

5. Scrutinize your management practices. 

Are you encouraging or inadvertently discouraging these behaviors? Do you squelch proactive employees who raise unpleasant issues or problems outside your control? Do you “reward” those who get stuff done by having them pick up the slack for those who don’t?

Not sure? Share this article with your employees and then talk to them about it. Tell them you value these characteristics and you want to know what you can do to help them excel at each. But skip the generalities after that. Gut reaction general solutions are rarely solutions. Use specific examples and consider the questions above to understand what is really going on and how you can make a difference.

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