Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid. – A. Einstein
Earlier in my career, I managed a group of engineers. At one point I hired a new grad to fill a specific position. He had the perfect skills from his post-graduate degree and an excellent attitude. I expected great things from him.
Starting out, I gave him projects that matched his academic skills. He worked hard and was dedicated to meeting milestones. But over time I could see that he was struggling. I coached him as best as I could and he managed to complete several projects. But I could see that the type of work was not natural for him even though he had excelled academically in this area.
Eventually, I suggested to him that he consider a different role and got him to try product management instead of the system design work he had been doing. It didn’t take long before he proved himself to be an outstanding product manager and he truly enjoyed the new job.
The same story has repeated itself a few times during my management career. I now recognize that a good manager must acknowledge that sometimes employees who appear perfectly qualified for a position are not necessarily going to thrive and naturally excel there.
The annual performance review is a good time to constructively and openly assess whether an employee is in the role that best enables him/her to be a “genius”. Another opportune time is at the end of a project.
By assessing fit regularly, your organization will become more efficient and your employees happier. And happy employees, who feel like they can truly contribute to the organization’s success, are more likely to be productive, creative and committed.
So, how many fish do you have trying to climb trees in your company?