All too often, when starting a new client, the first issue the owner reports is their regret of giving a job title to an employee they wish they hadn’t.
Here’s the mistake:
Early on in a business’s inception the owner may have a “right-hand person” help them get it off the ground. This person is typically a great task doer, works independently, and values being known as that type of right-hand person.
As the business grows, the owner gives this right-hand person the title of VP. Time goes on, the business continues to grow, and more becomes required of this VP. This includes work that should now be done through
them, instead of being done by
This is where the issue arises.
The VP does not grow their skill set to accommodate the increase in demands of the role resulting in them quickly becoming the major limiting factor to the growth of the company. Since they are not adjusting to their role, the happy relationship with the founder turns into an antagonistic one that is typically visible to everybody. Staff then gets the message that it’s okay not to perform a job well and a culture of apathy grows.
Here’s the fix:
Start with an open and honest communication that doesn’t blame the VP but sets them up for success. The conversation can go in this order:
- Define the expectations of the VP role
- Describe what is currently being performed in the role (versus the expectations)
- Create an action plan to bridge the gap between what is expected and the current performance. Instead of having the founder create the plan, we recommend having the VP create it. This will help ensure that the VP understands both what is expected of them and that they are responsible for their growth. If they don’t understand that they are responsible for their growth, they may blame the founder if this growth doesn’t happen.
- Add a time frame for each action in order to maintain accountability.
- Schedule regular check-ins to ensure progress is being made.
If this doesn’t work, or the action plan is not achieved, ask yourself:
Is there a roll this VP maybe more suited for?
Sometimes it’s too difficult for the VP to accept a lesser role, and other discussions must happen. However, in some cases they are relieved and will gladly accept the right-sized role.
If you find yourself in the middle of this difficult type of situation, the best thing to do is to have empathy but still be honest in your efforts to align this person with their right-sized roll. Remember, its ultimately their choice to help move the business forward or not.
Don’t be too generous with those big job titles early on. They can be more trouble than they’re worth and can cause a lot of unnecessary heartache. Keep your organizational structure as flat as possible with everyone focused on the customer.
After all, it is the customers who pay the bills, so make sure you are focused on them, and not job titles.
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