Team Management: When to Re-Train and When to Move On
Category : Blog
Building a successful team is a concept that reaches far beyond just the world of IT management. When things just aren’t working out with a team member, it can be difficult at times to draw a line between the fault of the employer’s lack of training or the employee’s lack of aptitude for the assigned job. By no means am I an expert in the subject, but I wanted to share a few thoughts from one of my earliest management experiences and compare this with one of my more recent run-ins with this concept.
The first example takes us back to my life before I entered the world of IT management. Having managed assistant instructors and volunteer staff in a fitness facility environment, the idea of motivating people to become successful in a team was not a foreign concept. At one point, the gym owner approached me with some concern about his cleaning staff. He was under the impression that the facility was not being cleaned up to company standards and was considering fixing the problem by hiring a cleaning company. Having recently binge-watched every episode of Hotel Impossible—a program in which seasoned Hotel manager, Anthony Melchiorri offers management advice to failing hotel owners—I remembered an episode wherein Mr. Melchiorri re-trains the housekeeping staff of a failing hotel on cleaning procedure. A point was made that cleaning isn’t as intuitive as one might think and there should be a clearly-written process for housekeeping staff to follow in order to avoid missing a step or cleaning something with a dirty rag.
“Where is your training material?” I asked the owner. After a half-hour of searching, we finally found a dusty checklist that had clearly never been given to anyone in modern world history. With permission, I assumed authority over the cleaning staff the following week with a revised cleaning procedure and one-on-one training. I also included a checklist for the staff to cross off each completed step, sign their name, then give to me after each cleaning shift. Lo and behold, the facility began to look much cleaner over the following weeks. As it turns out, we were able to filter through the murky waters of staff management and determine that our issue was a lack of training and not a deficiency of employee aptitude.
This background was particularly useful during one of my most difficult management experiences. I had hired an entry-level Help Desk Coordinator with little experience and education under his belt. Knowing that he was new to the industry and I had not provided extensive training material, I was particularly patient through his many shortcomings. As we neared the infamous ‘90 day mark’, I felt increasingly defeated as he seemed to underperform at every aspect of the job. My feeling of defeat came from my knowing that I did not clearly convey each expectation and express my concern at each mistake. My superiors were well in-tune to the fact that things were not working out with this employee, but I could not justify letting him go without feeling that I had given him ample opportunity for success. I asked to try for one more week and called a meeting to give a “performance appraisal”. I clearly outlined three expectations that I felt were falling short and offered instructions on how to better accomplish them.
The next week, I was disappointed to find that all three of the outlined areas had not improved. Although it was uncomfortable and difficult—with some simple due diligence by giving proper training and instructions—I felt fully confident and comfortable that I had made the right decision to let him go. I then found a replacement who quickly became independent and competent given the same tasks with the same training material.
Now—I feel the need at this point to share my belief that aptitude and intelligence can not be measured on a two-dimensional scale; for every human who is incapable of doing one thing that you can do, they are capable of one thing that you can not do. My point in this is that the gentleman I let go from my IT Department was not dumb or inept, he just simply did not have the skillset that matched the requirements of the job. I have confidence that this man will one day find a role that matches his aptitude and he will perform much better under a different role.
Take this lesson from behind the IT Help Desk and see if you can apply it to your organization’s leadership. You just might save an entire team from being outsourced or fix an uncomfortable situation through finding a better role for one of your team members.