One of the most common business assumptions is that employees that excel in their position will make great managers. If an individual is creative and knows how to make things happen within the company, couldn’t they mentor and lead a team just like him or her? What genius on your part to promote them to management!
But what often happens is that this new manager is now stifled with employee issues, office politics, report generation, budget management and a whole host of other responsibilities that steal time away from more visionary endeavors.
Face it. Some people are simply incredible individual contributors who should be rewarded as such. Not every “good” employee wants to be management. But there are plenty of average performers who can aptly manage others and perform other mundane tasks. Is that what you want your “top guns” to be doing with their time?
It’s time to think differently. Promote and empower individual workers so they can wield the power of your senior management ranks, but don’t automatically promote them to management positions.
In addition, keep in mind that although most stellar employees are self‐motivated, that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to spend their time and talents on motivating others. Instead of assigning people to these individuals, assign them responsibilities and then provide them the resources they need. Some individual contributors may not want to use any internal resources. They may prefer to do the majority of work themselves and utilize outside resources for the rest. Let them.
Let’s examine the case of an exceptional employee at an old‐school “forms and labels” company that produced large quantities with slim profit margins. The company just didn’t provide a lot of value beyond a “quality” product.
This worker discovered that various insurance companies were having to pay out multimillion‐dollar claims because they weren’t going far enough to prove that the individual who signed up for an insurance policy was the same individual who provided a bodily fluid sample to a laboratory representative.
He also had read online about inkless fingerprinting and how it was being used by different industries to thwart fraud attempts. He put two and two together and created a business alliance with a company who produced the inkless fingerprinting chemicals. He then got permission to use an outside research and development group to test and age the chemicals on various label substrates.
The product idea he was pursuing was to create a form/label combination that would be used by both the insurance company and clinical laboratories. Upon signing up for an insurance product, the customer would be required to place a fingerprint on the application. When providing a bodily sample to a clinical lab employee, the customer would be asked to provide that same fingerprint on the clinical lab form. This created two collaborating pieces of evidence that could be used in a trial.
Realizing that the specific application of this market niche contained a significant amount of perceived value, he worked with an outside patent attorney to patent the product and obtain intellectual property rights for the company. Because he understood the production capabilities of his company , when it came time, it was very easy for the manufacturing team to create this product and customize it for laboratory and insurance companies.
This employee knew to play to his company’s strengths. Managers should do the same.
For example, if your company is great at manufacturing but not so good at product development, let your most innovative workers come up with other ways to use your manufacturing processes and let them market‐test those ideas using outside resources. If the pilot products go over well, you can then internalize them. Or let them use outside marketing firms if that’s what your company’s weakness is.
Your best individual workers are usually your visionaries who actively look for new markets, new products and services, cost‐cutting opportunities or patent ideas that will move the company forward. Don’t stifle them with bureaucracy and “people problems” of management.
Tony Streeter is the Chief Marketing Officer, SVP at Y&L Consulting, Inc. in San Antonio, Texas. Mr. Streeter has led new product development, Ecommerce marketing, and integrated platform marketing initiatives for major companies such as Harland Clarke, Deluxe Corporation and RR Donnelley. Currently, Mr. Streeter leads marketing and branding initiatives for Y&L Consulting, a comprehensive IT Services & Solutions company specializing in IT Development, Information Management/BI, and Service Desk Services.