What you should do with people in the wrong roles depends. If they don’t have the motivation, fit or strengths required for your organization, move them out. If they do, move them over or up as appropriate.

Recall The Only Six Viable Approaches To Talent Management — Invest, Support, Cherish, Move Up, Over Or Out.


Under-performing In Right Role – Invest

Do what it takes to define their roles, fix their management, give them the training or resources they need, and they will perform.

Effective In Right Role – Support

Invest appropriately to support in current roles, helping them continue to grow, perform and be happy.

Outstanding In Right Role – Cherish

Over-invest to help them grow, perform and be happy in their current roles.

Under-performing In Wrong Role – Move Out

Treat with respect and compassion and move them out with a minimum of discretionary investment.

Effective In Wrong Role – Move Over

Find them and move them to the right roles before they burn out or quit.

Outstanding In Wrong Role – Move Up

Promote them before somebody hires them away. Move them up sooner than you’re comfortable and with more support to succeed in their new roles.

Hired into wrong role

CEO turns to manager and asks about his new hire.

“How’s he doing?”

“He can’t do the job we put him into.”

“I was thinking the same thing. Should we let this play out until he’s been here six months or get rid of him now?”

“Why would we get rid of him? He’s still got the strengths and motivation we thought and fits with our culture. Let’s find him a new role.”

They did. It involved a demotion. The new hire was upset, but eventually accepted the new role. Eighteen months later he was performing at the highest levels and was happy as a clam in the mud.

Incremental steps come home to roost

New head of marketing realized everyone was in the wrong role.

The head of their biggest business was super-intelligent, disciplined, analytical and stifling all the managers working for her – including the most creative guy in the group.

The head of their innovation group was their strongest general manager for going businesses and stifling the creativity in his group.

The new head moved everyone to new roles all at the same time – in the middle of annual planning. Everyone had to onboard someone into their old role while being onboarded into a new role.

The head of the biggest business was promoted to be head of strategy and media where her intelligence, discipline and analytics helped cut media costs by 25% while improving its effectiveness.

The strong general manager took over the biggest business and led efforts to double the growth rate.

The most creative guy in the group took over the innovation group and led the creation of all sorts of new and wonderful things.


Go back and re-read the last three bullets under the six-box chart.

Do move out those that can’t succeed. They can be black holes with manager after manager trying to “fix” them, putting them on performance improvement plans, trying them in different roles, giving them different tools. Looking back on their careers, the #1 regret senior leaders have is not moving fast enough on people. They’re thinking about these people that took up more time than they deserved and distracted them from investing in their better performers.

Move those that can be successful in a different role into those roles. These are the examples above. Style is not mission-crippling. It’s just mission-crippling for some roles.

Closely related to that is promoting the people that should be promoted. If you don’t do it, someone else will.

The corollary of that is not promoting outstanding performers in the right role. The world needs three types of leaders, artistic, scientific and interpersonal. But not everyone has to be or can be all three at the same time. While some artistic and scientific leaders can be and want to be interpersonal leaders, some cannot be and do not want to be those. While some leaders can think 5-10 years out, others are happier thinking three years out, one year out or just about this week. Let them and all play to their strengths.

Click here for a list of my Forbes articles (of which this is #809) and a summary of my book on executive onboarding: The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan.

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