Peter Drucker: The Truly Dangerous Thing
“The truly dangerous thing is asking the wrong questions.” Peter Drucker
Wrong questions when promoting from within:
When you need a supervisor for a team of engineers, the question isn’t, “Is this potential supervisor a good engineer?”
Beware the right answer to the wrong question.
“Yes, this person is doing a great job in their role as an engineer. Let’s promote them to supervisor.”
Organizations promote the wrong people because they ask about the past and neglect the future.
The right questions when promoting from within:
- What do we expect our new supervisor to accomplish?
- What attitudes and behaviors produce the ends we expect?
- How does this potential supervisor currently exhibit the attitude and behaviors unearthed from question one and two?
- How has this potential supervisor responded to stretch assignments?
Recovering from the right answer to the wrong question is painful and slow. How do you demote someone you wrongly promoted? But, if you ask the right questions, you save everyone a world of hurt.
“We define our dialogue and, in a sense, our future through the questions we choose to address.” Peter Block
When seeking advancement, ask, “How might I live like my future self now?”
What questions should be asked when promoting from within?
When have you seen the danger of getting the right answer to the wrong question?
≈ 80% of employees self-report that they are not engaged.
≈ 80% of managers are ill suited to effectively manage people.
* The two 80 percents are closely related.
Employers keep hiring the wrong people to be their managers and then they wonder why they have so few successful, engaged employees. Successful employees have all three of the following success predictors while unsuccessful employees lack one or two and usually it is Job Talent that they lack.
II. Cultural Fit
III. Job Talent
Employers do a…
A. GREAT job of hiring competent employees, about 95%
B. good job of hiring competent employees who fit the culture, about 70%
C. POOR job of hiring competent employees who fit the culture and who have a talent for the job, about 20%
Identifying the talent required for each job seems to be missing from talent and management discussions. If we ignore any of the three criteria, our workforce will be less successful with higher turnover than if we do not ignore any of the three criteria.
II. Cultural Fit
III. Job Talent
There are many factors to consider when hiring and managing talent but first we need to define talent unless “hiring talent” means “hiring employees.” Everyone wants to hire for and manage talent but if we can’t answer the five questions below with specificity, we can’t hire or manage talent effectively.
A. How do we define talent?
B. How do we measure talent?
C. How do we know a candidate’s talent?
D. How do we know what talent is required for each job?
E. How do we match a candidate’s talent to the talent demanded by the job?
Most managers cannot answer the five questions with specificity but the answers provide the framework for hiring successful employees and creating an engaged workforce.
Talent is not found in resumes or interviews or background checks or college transcripts.
Talent must be hired since it cannot be acquired or imparted after the hire.
Thanks Bob. Your comment got me thinking about strengths, skills, and talent. I think they are different, but connected.
I think talent, of the three, is something we are born with. I’m not sure how one measures talent.
I’m talented at asking questions. I’ve also honed the skill of asking questions. Because it’s a talent and a skill, it ends up in my list of strengths.
If I recall. a strength is something that we do well, gives us energy, and is useful to others. I have some strengths that don’t give me energy any more. In that case, they really aren’t strengths from an organizational point of view.
Thanks for the inspiration to spend a moment mulling this over.
Dan, we bring our job strengths to the job.
We don’t create or increase job strengths while on the job.
Which explains the power of hiring for job strengths.
Your comments, as usual, are spot on, Dan. How many organizations promote their best sales representative to be the sales manager? In the process, they may well have have lost their best sales person and put someone in charge who lacks the desire, the temperament, or the ability to be a good sales manager.
Too many organizations see management as the only career path for advancement, while the reality is that we need good managers, good engineers, and good sales people, all of whom contribute to the success of that organization.
Thanks William. The tragic truth of your comment is when promoting a great sales person who ends up being a mediocre sales manager organizations experience a double hit.
I absolutely have loved this question and continue to “love this question” – “How might I live like my future self now?”
I think there is no other way to live one’s personal or professional life.
C. K. Prahalad (books – Competing for the future; fortune at the bottom of the pyramid etc.) called this “Next practices” and the advice was envision a future and start building yourself today (so when the day happens – that the future is realized !) – he used to call it “folding back the future”. Covey (‘s 7th Habit) ‘s “sharpening the saw” is just this!
Another way of looking at your post –
Economists (I am not one!) worry about (mostly) two things (in such situations) – they call it the “moral hazard problem” (intent should be right) and the other is called the “project selection problem” . While Bob Gately discusses the process, there is scope for using a multi-criteria decision making tool (like Saaty’s Analytical Hierarchy Process) – carefully state the objective, list criteria (and establish weights/proportion) on what basis the decision will be made and finally, have alternatives to chose from (this is a common mistake – not having enough alternatives. If you have only one alternative – the questions should be “should we chose him or not?” ) !!
As always, thanks Dan.
First, with promoting people you usually have two choices. You promote them, or they leave, because they won’t stay where they are doing the job they’re doing for ever. You keep some of the capability or lose all of it.
most of the time the people who hire go and hire people who fit THEIR view of the culture. They pick a corporate spieler who has a shelf of management books and becomes a laughing stock when they walk onto the floor of the lab/factory.
“Talent” is a red herring. If you cannot agree, define and measure “talent” you’re wasting your time searching for it.
“Organizations promote the wrong people because they ask about the past and neglect the future” This is so true. Just because an individual has done exceedingly well as an individual contributor does not mean that the person has skills required to be a good manager/Leader. In one of the organizations that I worked for, we had a process to discuss all the potential candidates for promotion. And one of the criteria was to look at if the proposed candidate for promotion was exhibiting the competencies required for the next job. If not then the individual was coached before granting him the promotion.
As usual ,in short,again a great piece of writing,Dan ! ….the Great.