I just completed a quarterly session with a client who has recently been performing well and exceeding expectations. But this one had an interesting twist.
Shortly after our last quarterly, the company’s head of engineering left. He was exceptionally talented, so his departure left a hole. In response, they moved Engineering underneath Operations (it had been its own leadership team seat) and promoted one of the engineers, Matt, to run it.
It was a battlefield promotion and no one was sure how it would go. As it turns out, it went really well.
In our start-of-day check-in, everyone on the team raved about what a great job Matt was doing. Amid the chaos of the pandemic shutdown, he was a real bright spot.
Uncovering Hidden Company Rock Stars
Top performers always look to grow.
This raised two interesting questions:
- First, if the previous head of engineering hadn’t quit, how long would it have taken them to figure out how much untapped potential Matt had?
- Second, how many more “Matts” does the company have? How many more potential rock stars are right under their noses, just waiting for the opportunity to step up and show what they’ve got?
We can’t know the answer to either question for sure, but most likely, the answer to the first question is “forever.”
Top performers always look to grow. Denied that opportunity, they eventually get frustrated and disengage, which means they stop giving their best. Finally, they go look for a better opportunity somewhere else. And because they’ve disengaged, by the time they leave they’re no longer seen as top performers. So the company often has no idea what it has lost.
The answer to the second question is almost certainly “more than zero.” The odds are that in this company, and in most companies, there’s a pool of underutilized talent just waiting for a chance.
Could this be true in your company? Probably. The way to find out is to delegate like crazy.
How To Make Your Employees Stronger
The most helpful mindset, we’ve found, is to see it as your job to work yourself out of a job. Don’t worry. You’ll never succeed because there’s plenty to do. So, start treating every encounter with someone who reports to you as an opportunity to make them stronger, get them to take on more, and help them not need you.
If you, your leadership team, and every manager in your company does that, the “Matts” in your company won’t stay hidden very long.
Previously published on TheTractionGroup blog
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