Blog >
What to Do When an Executive Is in the Wrong Role

Blog

What to Do When an Executive Is in the Wrong Role

Ben Dattner co-authored this article published in the Harvard Business Review that offers insight on how to deal with an executive in the wrong role.

Sometimes, executive coaching reveals that the person being coached is in the wrong role. When this becomes clear, bosses too often prematurely conclude that they have to fire the person or that the coaching was a waste. However, instead of seeing this…more

In the traditional view of executive coaching, an executive, with her boss’s participation, takes personality assessments, receives 360-degree feedback, and creates and implements a development plan designed to address performance gaps, optimize her contribution, and prepare her for new responsibilities. This approach is based on the fundamental belief that enhancing performance in a role as currently structured, is the best way ahead.

However, in some cases, the coaching reveals that the person is in the wrong role. Some people are qualified on paper, but for political, historical, or personality reasons can’t really succeed on a given team or in a particular job. Other people may have many talents and a great track record of past success, but are not thriving in their present role as it is currently defined. When this becomes clear, bosses too often prematurely conclude that they have to fire the person or that the coaching was a waste. However, instead of seeing this outcome as some kind of failure, a boss and an organization can instead frame the result of the coaching as indicating a different, but still successful, path. Sometimes, redefining the role is in the best interests of both the organization and the individual working with the coach.

That’s because as organizational structures become more fluid and reporting relationships become more project-based, the very notion of what constitutes a particular role within an organization is being rethought and revised more often. In this context, a coach may add value not just to one direct report, but can also provide helpful perspective about the larger organization, department or team in which the individual is working. It can be hard to acknowledge one’s own strengths and weaknesses, sometimes it’s hardest to do so when that feedback is coming from the boss. For the boss, it can be daunting to consider making organizational changes; it often initially seems easier to try to optimize individual performance within the existing organizational structure. A good coach can provide an outside perspective on both of these issues, because they’re not motivated by any politics or agendas.

 

Key points include:

  • Moving employee to a different role
  • Redefining the role
  • Redesigning the org chart

 

Read the full article, When Coaching Finds That an Executive Isn’t in the Right Role, on HBR.org.