When Placed in Command, Take Charge


Ellis, a newly-appointed supervisor joked to his group, “Well, I guess they couldn’t find anyone else to take the job.  I’ve worked alongside you for three years.  You know what to do.”

In another division, Janice was also promoted from her group to be the supervisor.  On her first day, she held a meeting and laid out her expectations.

“My top priorities are: (1) we meet our quality metric 100% of the time, (2) meet 98% of all deadlines, (2) improve customer satisfaction scores by 15%, and comply with all attendance and safety policies.”

Performance in Ellis’ group actually declined.  One employee said, “Some just waited to be told what to do; others more or less plodded along with half-hearted efforts.”

By contrast, one of Janice’s employees reported.  “We all knew what she expected and we stayed focused.  Both performance and morale soared.”

As the late General Schwarzkopf said, “When placed in command, take charge.”

This does not mean that you know everything, refuse to listen, rule by fear or turn into a dictator.  It does mean that you should have a plan, be clear, stay humble, listen and act like a leader—a good one.

Do You Promote on Merit?


“I think we should promote Ethan,” a manager said.  “He has been here the longest and he gets along with everyone.”

“What about Angela?” asked another manager.

“She does good work but she is not certified.”

“What do you mean?”

“After training, she chose not to take the exam.  She only has a junior college degree and she has been with us for just two years.”

When evaluating persons for promotion, discussions often center around a mishmash of issues such as:  length of service, college degrees, licenses, certifications and even popularity among co-workers.

The major criteria for promotion, I believe, should evolve from the answers to two questions. What skills does the position require?   Which candidate best demonstrates these skills?

We have all known highly-certified and advance-degreed individuals who still did not possess the skills for performance excellence.  And there are countless examples of individuals with few, or no degrees, who are extremely talented and skilled.  Remember, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell and Mark Zuckerberg are college drop outs.

I understand there may be social and media pressure to promote on factors other than merit.  I also understand that the most successful organizations, just like sports teams, strive to put their best players on the field.