Hump Day Wisdom: Polishing a Sneaker

Are you trying to polish a sneaker?

Many leaders strive to create environments that will stretch colleagues by providing opportunities to take on bigger challenges.  But what is the impact of pushing an employee beyond the limits of their energy, talent, interest or capacity?  Laurence Peter described the way that the relentless drive to do more often subverts both the individual and the organization in his (now classic) The Peter Principal.

While evolution may love the idea of testing talent to the limit, businesses end up with long time loyal (and expensive) employees who continue to bleep productivity by staying in a job they cannot do.  The alternative is a useless staff assignment that will keep them from harm’s way which Peter described as the Lateral Arabesque.

So, before you push the button on a promotion that is more about political parity than merit, kid yourself about whether a manager can make the leap, do everyone a favor and be as certain as you can that you are not trying to polish a sneaker.

In the quarters to come, when we are all working on how to take cost out of the businesses we lead, those will be painful and expensive decisions to reverse.

Hump Day Wisdom is published to arrive in your RSS/ mailbox on Wednesdays as an invitation to consider a mid week course correction and goes to thousands of requesters on 4 continents,