I have been working with three people around their emotional intelligence awareness. If it is not an obvious skill issue, organizations are increasingly looking at a person’s social and emotional skills for the reason(s) why they are not more successful. EQ (emotional quotient/intelligence) work can be useful in helping a person understand why they may not be as effective.
What is odd/noteworthy about this latest group is that their lack of effectiveness may be more a matter of fit than either EQ or skill. It has been an interesting experience and one that I thought you might find interesting as well. My experience tells me there are some lessons here.
My blog on ‘Inclusion’ hit a chord with many of you. One reader was kind enough to comment how much he is blessed with a diverse group of friends and community; from several countries, ethnic groups and languages – “Developing meaningful relationships with people regardless of how different we look is such a blessing in my life – I love it.” Thank you, EP, for sharing your experience. It encourages us all.
If you miss any of my writing, you can find it at www.ldrshipvision.com under the “Resource” section.
Do your best work and be well.
Sometimes It Is Just a Matter of Fit
Fit is one of the five key needs we have in life. We all have a need to fit in. That is why it is vital at work that people are the ‘right ones’ for their role, for your culture. Gino Wickman, in his book Traction, says, “The ‘right people’ are the ones who share your company’s core values. They fit and thrive in your culture. They are the people you enjoy being around and who make your organization a better place to be.”
Think about the number of leaders with and for whom you have worked who “didn’t fit” … not with the group, not with you, not with the culture. Was it because they lacked the knowledge and skills necessary for the job? Probably not. Very often they didn’t fit because they either didn’t share the organization’s core values and/or there was something a little ‘off’ in their ability to read a situation and respond/interact in the most valuable way. My work with EQ (Emotional Quotient) shows me that there is often a connection with where an employee struggles and certain subscales in their EQ. Sometimes they are able to make the necessary adjustments (tweaks); sometimes they aren’t.
We can spend countless hours trying to remediate these individuals when the key issue may be something else – they don’t share our values; they don’t, or won’t thrive in our culture. This doesn’t have to be ‘from the beginning.’ It can occur when there is a change in roles. Just as we misread new hires and their ‘fit’ potential, we can promote people into a different role and misread their ability to handle that role.
The three people I am working with present slightly different scenarios. One is in remediation, and two are part of a leadership program and in new roles (less than a year). All three are in various degrees of discomfort in performing their role. With the person in remediation there is significant ‘documentation’ as to what the ‘problems’ are. In addition, I have 360 data from his manager, peers and direct reports. That data presents a different and difficult wrinkle. The manager’s ratings on ¾ of the Emotional Intelligence subscales is statistically much lower than how the employee rated himself, as well as the peers and direct reports rated him.
The other two have a boss who is relatively new and who’s style is very different from theirs. Their tension is about functioning in a new role with a new boss. These are not unusual situations, although I don’t see very often this wide a disparity between employee and manager ratings.
I don’t know what will emerge for these three. I see their mental anguish as they grapple with the uncertainty of not knowing whether their best will be good enough. What has been interesting with all three is that after exploring a variety of scenarios – what is going well, what is not, and what part their EQ scores play, I have paused with them and asked a simple, basic question. “Do you think you fit in this job?”
Their initial response has been a defense of their fit. And then they pause. All three have indicated they aren’t sure. We expand the discussion to account for the number of other things that would affect their ‘fit.’ They came to recognize that there are a few that are outside of their control (i.e., their bosses’ biases, their boss’s leadership style, a shift in culture). This expansion of their thinking around their fit seems to ease their anxiety that whether they fit or not may not be totally about them. I encourage them to not react too abruptly, but instead, to ‘hold’ the question of their fit for a while as they continue to experience/do their jobs. Holding the question for a while might help the answer to emerge on its own. Regardless, I always encourage the employee, if possible, to decide their fit and fate.
In the case of the remedial employee, the dimension that is added is the possibility that his manager has a negative bias at work. Over the next several days the employee will explore that possibility as it relates to the disparity in his boss’s ratings. I will be present to help them to maintain focus, and to help mitigate what could be a delicate conversation.
This is also a situation where a lot of effort has been expended to try and make things better. This often can cloud everyone’s judgment about what really is at work. Often, each party involved may not want to call what is a simple question, “Does he…Do I…fit?” In the end, however, sometimes it is the best question. If the boss’s answers “no,” he comes to understand that the employee would still rather know then to waste their time when their boss believes they don’t fit. In addition, the boss may believe that the improvement plan was giving the employee a ‘fair shot’ when it might not have been a ‘fair’ shot. The boss may come to realize that it is fairer to the employee to express that “I don’t think this is going to work and I don’t want to waste your time. Let’s work on an exit strategy that respects you and works for us.”
In my experience, organizations often error on the side of trying to remediate an employee when it is more of a fit issue than a skill issue. Remediation is a logical and important first step. There is, however, a point, for both sides, where we see that it is not really working. Don’t be afraid of having that conversation. You’re not protecting anyone by not asking.
I once had an employee who was very smart and good at her job. At least once a month she would get into a ‘skirmish’ with her supervisor over something the department was or wasn’t doing. Those situations continued to escalate, and the frequency increased. The supervisor would defend her, but I realized that these skirmishes were taking a toll on the department. I had a good relationship with the employee, so I called her in and asked her if she was happy. She said not really. I went on to say to her, “You may be right in these disagreements, but are they solving anything?” She admitted that they weren’t. I told her I didn’t want to lose her, but the supervisor wasn’t going to change in the foreseeable future. Did she really want to continue to be unhappy? I suggested that it might be better if she left and came back in two or three years. That is what she did. In the interim the supervisor matured as did the employee. She came back in a leadership role and was terrific.
These conversations don’t always have this good an outcome, but they do tend to save a lot of anguish on both sides. Do they believe in our core values? Will they thrive in this environment? Are they people that we want to be around and will be better for the organization? Is there a person(s) in your organization that needs a different address? If yes, try not to over complicate the situation.
To a better you…
How to tell if you’ll fit into a company’s culture before you take the job?