When a Team Member Is a Poor Fit

by Marcianne Kuethen
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It’s great when your team is running smoothly, but what should you do when a team member is a poor fit? “No matter how talented or intelligent an employee may be, if they aren’t in a job that allows them to leverage their personal skills and attributions, they won’t meet their full potential or their employer’s needs,” says Business News Daily. When a team member is a poor fit, no one wins.

Here’s a true example of how easily it can happen (names have been changed to protect anonymity): When Jenn met Parker, the CEO of Bizco, a business coaching firm, Parker enthusiastically told Jenn she had unique skills and his company needed her. Already a big fan and client of Bizco, Jenn felt honored to be considered and soon accepted a job as a liason between several departments. But Bizco had no onboarding process or Great Start Tool, and Jenn wasn’t assertive enough to ask for a clear job description or performance expectations.

After three weeks, Bizco’s new team member was floundering and out of sorts. Parker pulled Jenn in for a heart-to-heart talk and observed that he had never seen her more unhappy. Jenn sadly agreed but couldn’t quite pinpoint why.

“There are usually three possible reasons to explore when a team member is a poor fit,” Parker told her, going into coaching mode:

  1. Right place, wrong role. Think of a sporty car that you really like—let’s say a convertible Corvette. It’s great on the highway, but try offroading that car up a rocky, muddy slope, and you’re in trouble.
  2. Right person, wrong direction. Again, driving that same car, you expertly start navigating to California…but I need you to be in North Carolina tomorrow morning.
  3. Right place, wrong time. You’re called, gifted, passionate, but it’s not the right season of your life to work here. Your convertible Corvette is tuned up, gassed up, and ready to go…but it’s hurricane season.

Parker challenged Jenn to think about which of these might apply to her situation and get back to him. Jenn agreed.

How the Wrong Fit Can Happen

People can get into the wrong roles for a variety of reasons, according to Christina Comaford, Forbes contributor, business coach, and author of Smart Tribes: How Teams Become Brilliant Together. A team member could have been moved or promoted into a new role but not given a training plan. Someone could have been hired to complete a project and never got redeployed once it was done. Or he or she could be an untouchable—a friend or relative of someone in leadership who keeps the person on even if he or she is not a good fit for the role.

How to Know if Someone Is a Poor Fit

Bart McCollum, a Forbes Councils Member, shares EOS’s “GWC” questions to determine if someone is in the right role. Bart recommends that leaders these of all employees every six months:

1. Do they get it? Do they understand what is expected of them? Does your understanding of the role and theirs align? You need to hear a yes answer to this question.

2. Do they want it? Is this person enthusiastic, or is he or she trying to do someone else’s job and stepping on toes? Again, a yes answer is non-negotiable.

3. Do they have the capacity to do it? Are they emotionally capable as well as knowledgable and skilled to do the job? If not, this team member must learn to close the gap quickly.

What to Do When a Team Member Is a Poor Fit

On an interconnected team, everyone depends on each other to play his or her part well. When one person can’t or won’t perform what is needed, it hurts the entire team. As a leader, says Comaford, there are several things you can or need to do when you discover that you have one or more people in the wrong role.

  1. Create clear and compelling statements for your mission, vision, and values. This way, all your team members know why they’re coming to work, where you’re all going together, and agree on how they will behave.
  2. Establish goals, make a plan the steps to execute those goals, and set up ways to hold people accountable. (If you want to learn how to set SMART goals, click here.)
  3. Redefine roles and responsibilities to get the right people in the right roles. Respectfully let people go who are not a culture fit.

How did Jenn’s story end? Her conversation with Parker led her to realize that she was dissatisfied in her current role stemmed because she’d entered into it for the wrong reason—ego. Parker had said that they needed her, that no one else could do this job. Jenn had been so flattered that she hadn’t stopped to evaluate whether the role was a good fit for her. This made her operate under a false sense of ownership and take responsibility for things that weren’t hers to take until she was completely overwhelmed. Once she realized that she couldn’t blame anyone but herself, it was easy for she and Parker to redirect her role at Bizco.

 

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