The Failure to Evolve

A client hired a long lost relative and placed him in management. For the sake of confidentiality, let’s call the new hire Steve.

Joining the armed forces out of high school, Steve was looking for security and stability. Over time, he proved himself and was promoted, becoming an officer. Retiring after twenty years of service, Steve was looking to join an organization with growth potential.

Given Steve’s age, experience and track record of personal drive, his elder relations had in mind that they might some day turn company operations over to him to run so they could step out of the business to a more strategic role.

After all, Steve was family and could be trusted to look out for their interests, financially and otherwise.

But after Steve had been on the job for a few years, the owners noticed some things, some traits, that were eye brow raising.

It was determined early on by his subordinates that Steve had not earned his new position; it was given to him. That might have been the source of some initial jealousy but that disappeared and turned into frustration when it quickly surfaced that Steve:

Had never learned to delegate; Steve was quite proud of what he called his “30 second rule” which meant if he gave a subordinate an assignment, if that person had not jumped into solving the problem within the set time span, Steve pulled the person out of the way and solved the problem himself.

He did not trust his people. Why did this happen? His mindset was that his subordinates weren’t as good as he was, and to make sure they knew that, he did almost everything himself.

Steve thought he was above the details. He should have known better with his background. Details make or break any organization. Steve was always ready to blame someone else when a project didn’t go the way it should have. Having a subordinate take the fall was his MO. As a result, trust vanished.

He failed miserably when it came to hiring people. Every one of the people he recruited into the company left within months once the “real Steve” surfaced.

Through all this, Steve wouldn’t hesitate to tell anyone how much he loved his work. But what he really loved was the steady paycheck and his title. He had “made it” post service career.

Over time, any passion that might have existed at the start for the work or the people disappeared. He switched to being a clock-watcher, ignoring the need to set a good example for his employees about staying until the job got done.

His arrival and departure from work became predictable; he acted more like a hourly worker punching a clock than a member of management focused on achieving company performance.

The owners initially bought what Steve was selling, at least for the first few years and rewarded him. For the wrong things. Raises were given, extra time off granted; a company car and gasoline credit card provided.

It surfaced, eventually, that Steve was simply not coachable. Steve had “been there and done that.” He wasn’t open to learning because he had learned it all before, in his previous life. Steve didn’t understand that “things change.”

He could not plan, organize, hire, train, coach, inspire, or lead. Steve was not able to perform these basic management skills and eventually left the family business.

You may have a Steve on your team; or maybe your team sees you as “Steve.”

The failure to recognize that nothing stays the same in business can be deadly. Just as every owner wants their business to grow, to adapt, to evolve, it all starts with the leader looking in the mirror.

The way things used to be done, and the people that do them today cannot remain constant. The people, the processes, the products must all evolve to survive and thrive.