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Are Your Best Performers Bad With People? Differentiating Between People And Performance Management

By Jack McCalmon, The McCalmon Group, Inc.

A CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) HR Outlook survey that polled human resource professionals found that nearly 50 percent of polled human resource personnel do not think senior business leaders have the necessary "performance management" skills. Nearly 44 percent of human resource professionals felt the same types of leaders lacked "people management" skills.  

Business leaders were rated higher for technical, financial and operational management skills.

Two reasons given for the lack of skills are a lack of training and lack of ongoing tailored support. "Leaders Lack Professional Skills," www.theglobalrecruiter.com (2017).


Employers know that not all IT, financial, engineering, sales or other types of technical superstars make the best leaders, motivators and communicators. Often, when they are given a project or goal, they knock it out of the park, but become frustrated when asked to manage others to do the same.

If you have ever heard an employee tell you that it takes longer to train someone than do it themselves…that is tell-tale sign of someone who prefers working solo.

That does not mean that these people are wrong or that they are the next Unabomber…often they look at the situation as a time and quality issue. Why spend the time managing others when I can do it quicker and better myself? It makes sense when you see it from their point of view.    

The rub is that these superstar employees want to advance, too, and often, the only advancement path is to manage people, so when promoted into people management positions, some adapt and thrive, others merely adapt, and some fail. When they fail, an employer loses a bad manager, but the employer also loses a skilled employee who was a superstar before the promotion.  

The good news is that some technical people can improve their people skills with time and training. For that reason, employers should consider providing all employees with leadership training to help pinpoint which ones are skilled as leaders, as well as help those with weak management skills to improve.

For those employees who are not “people managers”, employers should consider “performance management” positions that allow management of other things or collaboration, rather than management, of other people.

You may be thinking that this is not your problem. Consider this:

More employees define workplace success as something more than managing people. One survey reveals that 17 percent of American employees have no interest whatsoever in managing other people. Sarah Grant “Why Millennials Don’t Want To Be The Boss: U.S. Survey,” www.smh.com.au (Dec. 8, 2015). Another more recent survey of millennials found that only one percent of this group aspire to manage others as a top career priority. “Millennials: A Career For Me,” www.manpowergroup.com (2017).

My advice is to catch and ride the wave now or be swamped by it in the next ten years.   

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