E-Canteen Fundas: Team members up for promotion? Here's what leaders should keep in mind

Promote those who have been consistent — but don’t promote marginal cases for fear of losing them. If they’re good they will learn and shine through eventually
Here's what he says | (Pic: Edexlive)
Here's what he says | (Pic: Edexlive)

‘I’m planning to promote some of our team members,’ said Rinku. ‘But I’m confused about who to promote.’

‘What are you confused about?’ asked Rakesh.

‘For example, Rithu is a good candidate, in my opinion, with the right intent,’ said Rinku. ‘But she says something and does the opposite. Like she says all the right words — ownership, commitment, responsibility and team first — but I see nothing of that in her actions.’

‘Yes, bhaiyya,’ said Rahul. ‘Even I get confused with such people. They say all the right things but do the opposite.’

‘That’s a good observation,’ said Rakesh. ‘The general rule when it comes to judging people is to judge them by their actions, not their words. That’s because most of us believe we’re doing what we’re saying, while in reality, we may be doing the opposite. Like a person may talk with great conviction about being punctual but may be a habitual latecomer. She may genuinely believe she has valid justifications for being late often.’

‘On the other end are people who deliberately mislead with words because they know that most people give the spoken word greater importance than deeds,’ said Rakesh and continued, ‘Such people can take others on an emotional ride of how they were delayed, obscuring the important fact that they are actually late. So for a leader, it is important to judge people by their deeds and not their words. Are they actually coming on time? Are they showing proof of ownership? If they are not, don’t get swayed by mere words, however emotional or emphatic.’

‘But bhaiyya,’ said Rinku. ‘What if some of them, like Rithu, are well-intentioned but, for some reason, are not able to put their thought into action? Should we not give them a chance?’

‘That’s excellent leadership thinking,’ said Rakesh. ‘When it comes to the future — always give them the benefit of doubt. Believe that they are well-intentioned and will change their behaviour with timely feedback that shows the gap between their words and actions. Don’t label them based on one deed and write them off for life, because they could turn around and do what they intend. But when it comes to the present, judge them by their deeds.’

‘So, you’re saying that Rithu’s errors must not be overlooked while judging her for the present role,’ said Rinku.

‘Absolutely,’ said Rakesh. ‘They say a person is true to his character when erring. It means that errors give a good insight into the character of the person. If you can understand their errors and their motivations, you can judge them better and will have fewer surprises, that is, the gap between your expectations from them and their delivery will be less.’

‘That’s very helpful, bhaiyya,’ said Rinku. ‘There are two people I’m considering promoting as group leaders. One’s Sheelu who’s been a reliable performer. Nothing outstanding but she is consistent. The other is Rithu who performed well this time but there’s a gap between her words and deeds. I am thinking of promoting both.’

‘Why?’ asked Rakesh. ‘I can understand why you want to promote Sheelu. But why do you want to promote Rithu when you’re not sure if she’s ready?’

‘I want to encourage her, bhaiyya,’ said Rinku. ‘I feel if she does not get the promotion, she will get disappointed and stop working so hard. She may give up even. I need to develop my teammates, right?’

‘Good point,’ said Rakesh. ‘But to develop your people, you need to make them tougher. Don’t give the rewards too easy. Don’t lower your standards. Set high standards and give them feedback. The best leader, they say, is easy to serve but hard to please. If you give Rithu the promotion because you think she will be disappointed and give up, then you’re promoting her for the wrong reasons. If she’s the sort who’ll give up at the first sign of failure, she’s not ready yet.  You need people who can handle failure and grow past their limitations.’ 

‘Are you saying that the ability to handle failure could be a criterion in judging people?’ asked Rahul.

‘Yes,’ said Rakesh. ‘I’m sure you’ve heard of organisations that select people based on how they have handled failure in the past. They prefer those who have experienced failure, worked on their limitations, and then made a comeback — over those who have not experienced failure at all. So very simply, if you think they’ll give up after one failure, they’re not yet ready.’

‘Isn’t that a little harsh, bhaiyya?’ asked Rinku.

‘Not really,’ said Rakesh. ‘It’s the right thing to do for their own sake. It’s how you develop them. If they are really good, they will shine through. You cannot keep good talent and good attitude down. If they give up after one failure, it only means they need to learn some more.’

‘Wow,’ said Rinku. ‘Never thought of it like that. Thanks, bhaiyya. No room for misplaced sympathy in people's development. Tough love and empathy is the way to go.’

Pro Tip: Judge people by their deeds and not their words. Don’t label them based on their present actions and write them off for life because they might turn around and improve with correct feedback. Promote those who have been consistent — but don’t promote marginal cases for fear of losing them. If they’re good they will learn and shine through eventually.

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