A reflection about leading and helping the wrong people to become the right people

This week, Theresa (@teacherak14) and I hosted the #ETLead chat session in Twitter.  We used a shared Google document to write down our questions earlier in the week; Theresa led the first half of the session with her questions and I picked up halfway through with most of mine.  We ended with brief updates about our mentoring projects and I created a Storify version of our chat session that I shared back with everyone.  Our text reading for this week covered a lot of important themes and we had great discussion in the chat session about the significance of relationships in leadership, professional development, and in peer learning communities.  From reading through the responses again, it seems that these topics are highly relevant and important for us; we each shared examples of experiences and picked apart underlying issues with each question.

The essential question this week (Explain and give examples to argue why the following statement is true or false: “Get the right people on your team, and get the wrong ones off.”) immediately sparked a lot of questions for me, which I wrote about in my initial response this week.  I also tried to think of my response in the various contexts of leadership that I have experienced – work, family, friends, coaching, etc.

In some teams, I can’t just “get rid” of the wrong people – I can’t exactly do this with my family or rather, I don’t want to alienate or disown family members.  In my teaching or facilitating roles, my role is to guide and build consensus and help the wrong people to find the right learning environments and roles for them.  Even when I’m a coach, initially, I’m able to choose the right people to be on my team, but then the expectation is that I keep that team together and make it work with that particular combination of individuals.

Any way you cut it, getting the right people on your team is ideal but getting the wrong people off is not always a realistic option.  Despite all this, I tried to think of this question in the context of an organization in which I am leading a team of individuals.  It is in fact my belief, that an effective leader will try to guide the wrong people to figure out why they are having difficulty within the organization.  I also think that people become the wrong ones through some breakdown in relationships or communication, through growth and experience that begins to lead them in a different direction than the rest of the organization, and sometimes even through mismanagement – either by the leader, through ineffective processes, decision-making, unclear directives or mandates.

My approach in responding to the essential question then became one of viewing the wrong people as ill-suited for the organization or those that are unwilling or unable to adapt in a culture of change and the change process within the organization.  I don’t necessarily think that the wrong people are always wrong, but that they are no longer the right fit and would be better served by moving on to something more meaningful and aligned with their own goals, skillsets, perspectives, and purposes.  I still think the leader is responsible to make every effort to reconcile the issues that make the wrong people no longer the right people; after all, ultimately, the “return on investment” is worth considering.  Figuring out how to make the existing wrong people transition to the right people is worth the effort if you have invested time, money, resources, etc. into developing their capacity to contribute to the team within the organization.

But when despite all efforts, including those made by the wrong people, the wrong people just can’t become the right people, then maybe they need to find another organization where they will be just the right people for the job.  I think this is a natural part of growth and hopefully improvement in an individual’s career path; when we find we have outgrown or outlived our time in a role or team, we may need to explore what other opportunities exist.  We might continue our growth and find renewed motivation and inspiration to be the right people for the team.

Reading through the blogs of my peers was enlightening and I appreciated seeing their perspectives from the various roles and responsibilities they hold within their organizations.  Here are my responses to several of the blogs:

My response to Ali’s blog:  Like you, I also took issue with the premise of the question and what it meant to be right or wrong; I took  the stance that wrong means “not the right fit” and that occasionally the organization needs to find a better suited person if they have tried all means to get the wrong person to become the right person.  At the same time, the wrong person needs to recognize when they have outgrown or drifted from the organization and its specific moral purpose or vision, particularly when they are unwilling or unable to adapt and transition to the right person that is needed.  It’s expected that we will change, grow, and improve throughout our careers and it’s okay to acknowledge that it’s not working for you anymore in a specific organization or work environment and that you need to move on to a new place where you are in fact ,the right person needed there.

My response to Cherie’s blog:  My normal mode is to be a problem-solver so sometimes I get sucked in by the negative energy of others – I keep trying to listen, talk it out with them, help them to see different perspectives or offer suggestions.  Sometimes others acknowledge they are just having a rough time adjusting and other times you start to get the feeling that this is their typical outlook on everything.  I will remember now to walk away and set some boundaries without making it personal.  I also agree, sometimes the wrong person is having a hard time adjusting to the change process and needs more time, support, and experience to be able to adapt successfully.  And then there are those times when leaders have tried everything within their means and yet the wrong person continues to display “disinterest, disengagement, or even worse behavior”.  I wrote in my blog this week that wrong people need to re-evaluate their motivations and commitment to their team and organization and recognize when they have outgrown or drifted away from their current environment.  This isn’t always a bad thing, it’s normal for us to grow and change when we gain more experience, skills, and knowledge so sometimes we need to take that and move on so we can become the right person again.

My response to Sunshine’s blog:  I don’t think wrong people get that way overnight or right away when they join any organization.  It starts small, it can be influence from previous experiences, and is reinforced by the culture or lack of it in the work environment.  Fullan points out that the leader’s role is to build relationships that can help to make the change process easier and motivate people to give their best.  These relationships can help increase morale, create a collaborative peer learning community, and provide a support system to weather changes in the organization.  I agree that a shared vision can bring shared pride and bring about great things!

My response to Cindy’s blog:  I agree that team members who are unwilling or unable to “grow and work towards the moral purpose of the team” would probably be better off finding a more appropriate team.  As I’ve been reading all our blogs on this topic, it seems that there is some consensus that the right people can make a great team and the wrong people can break a great team.  I can see this working in businesses and schools but I guess it doesn’t necessarily apply when we work with students; we can’t very well kick out the wrong students and only keep the right students.  That’s what makes the job so difficult, you have to work with who you have and bring out the best in each member of your classroom team.

Needless to say, I really enjoyed discussing and writing about our topic this week and I appreciate how this topic has built on the previous weekly discussion themes (moral purpose, leadership styles, components of leadership, etc.).  I’ve also appreciated applying each weekly theme to my mentoring project and being cognizant of my own leadership strategies, style, and growth areas.

My mentoring project stalled for almost two weeks as my mentee and her daughter were very sick.  She also lost her voice so while we were able to communicate through chat and email briefly, we couldn’t really discuss her work until she felt better.  This week we had a long meeting session to catch up and assess what tasks and topics to tackle moving forward; our meeting was very productive and both the mentee and I were excited about continuing to work together beyond the project requirements for this course!  We will resume our weekly meetings and I have kept journaling and documented meeting notes which I will share in a separate blog post this week.

Any thoughts, feelings, opinions, suggestions?

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