Viewing Employee Progression From an Up, Over & Out Stance

Being a Coach is difficult.

You can only take your team so far, then you have to rely on your players to execute. I know there are times when you want to get in to the game, take the ball and handle things yourself, but what message does that send to the team? Now don’t get me wrong. There are certain projects or tasks where there is a zero tolerance for errors and you might have to jump in and help out. One of the most difficult things about being a coach though, is letting go and watching your players shine or crash.

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That’s what we’re talking about today. When you’re the leader or the “coach” there are only three moves for your employees or “players”: UP, OVER and OUT. It sounds harsh, but sometimes that’s how it shakes out.

Let’s start with the UP. Those are the employees that have the skills, knowledge and ability to make career moves up the ladder. They're your Superstars that made it to the Sweet Sixteen. Eventually, they may be ready for a move even higher than where they are now, and you might not be able to accommodate that right away. What happens in that scenario, you ask? We’ll get to that in a second.

Next, there’s the OVER category. The over category is not a bad category at all. This is the group of employees who do a really nice job for you. They perform at a “consistently meets expectations” level. They don’t necessarily possess all the trades to advance up the ladder. However, they do have the attitude and aptitude to move throughout the company performing similar roles. Not a move up, but a move over into a new role that keeps them committed to the company, keeps them learning and keeps them engaged.

Finally there is the OUT group. Again, not necessarily a bad category, it just depends on why they're out. Out can be because they were a star player who hit a career roadblock and sought opportunities outside the company. Out can also be because they weren’t able to be moved up or over so they were asked to leave the company.

The OUT category might need a little more explanation.

-- Out because of lack of opportunity. You’ve spent time, money and energy grooming this person only to have them walk out on you and take their nicely groomed skill set elsewhere. They could even be your Superstars from before who needed a new challenge and left before you could provide that. It happens, and there’s not much you can do about it. It still stings a little, though. However, they are still part of your success story. They won’t forget it was you who helped them get there. All you can do is move on and continue coaching, developing and training your employees.

-- Out because of termination. That’s never fun. It’s not fun for you, the team or the person getting terminated. Even if the termination is completely warranted and just and you’ve done everything you can to help the employee become successful. I’ve heard managers say, “I’m doing them a favor. This is a good thing for them." In the long run, it might be the best decision for them, but at the present time, they still have to go home to family, friends and neighbors and say, “I was let go."

Being a leader is challenging. If it wasn’t, everyone would be doing it. Being a great leader is even more challenging. Watching employees succeed beyond what you thought their potential was is amazing. Watching an employee fail is gut wrenching. All you can do is continue to stay focused and lead with the best foot forward.

I'll leave you with one final piece of advice. I heard it somewhere and can’t remember who said it but it went something like this: When an employee shows you who they really are, believe them.

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