Former Boston Red Sox legend Ted Williams’ keen ability to watch a baseball and react with a precise and powerful swing led him to the Hall of Fame. But he had a difficult time trying to pass on that skill. When he retired as a player and became a hitting coach, he was known to admonish his players repeatedly with: “Keep your eye on the ball,” likely not understanding that few players could follow a baseball as closely as he could. A talented athlete isn’t always an effective coach.
The same is true in business. A salesperson with an exceptional record for consistently surpassing quotas may not necessarily be a good fit as a manager of a sales team. Managing takes different skills. His or her sales experience over the years may not be enough to propel him or her into a leadership role. Perhaps that tenacious salesperson could become an effective manager, but not without training on how to guide and motivate his employees.
Company leaders need to know not only how to best use the talents of their employees, but also how to strike a balance with the needs of their employees. But it’s easy for leaders to become myopic, to think only of what needs to get accomplished that day or that week or month. And already pressed for time, managers understandably may be reluctant to take the additional time needed to think about each of his or her employees’ talents and interests and envision what role he or she might have in a year or two or ten. A manager who’s pleased with an employee’s work might not want to consider, let alone plan for that employee’s move to a different position.
The problem is that people tend to get bored in the same job after a certain number of years. They thrive on variety. If they’re not going to get it with their current company, they may start looking outside the organization. Planning for an employees’ future can be motivating for them, giving them something to aim for. At the same time, it can better prepare and position the company when job openings come up. More often than not, organizations focus on hiring and training new staff members for their current jobs rather than planning for what roles they might have in the future.
Managers typically have a good idea which employees have the potential to take on greater responsibilities. The tough part – and the part that’s often overlooked – is creating the development plan. That entails considering what conferences, work experience and training those employees need to prepare them to move into different jobs a few years down the road. If that manager isn’t looking ahead to where his or her employees might best serve the company in the future, the organization may not be prepared when positions come open. Turnover is inevitable. People move. They accept jobs with other companies. They retire or are laid off. For those transitions to be smooth, a company’s leaders need to look beyond what their employees are doing today. Today’s managers are called to recognize and train their future leaders to ensure the well-being of the employee and the company.