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Editor's Note: SHRM has partnered with Chief Executive magazine to bring you relevant articles on key HR topics and strategies.
For more than a decade, corporate hallways have echoed with the encouraging words of the strengths movement—enhancing employee strengths as a primary form of managerial and leadership development. Leaders have worked to incorporate the findings into their organizations and to create strong employee engagement. But now, another problem has surfaced. With all the focus on what people do well, managers are failing to give critical feedback, and the results are troubling.
One study shows as many as 67 percent of talented people will derail in their career at a cost of up to 20 times that of that employee's salary. It's an epidemic of underperformance.
I know firsthand how debilitating the problem is because I experienced my own career derailment event. Over 25 years ago, I was a young, promising executive at PepsiCo, certain I was on the fast track when my boss called me in and told me I was "unpromotable." Why? Because I was "obstinate," "resistant" and "insubordinate."
In retrospect, that critical feedback was the best gift I ever received because it caused me not only to be more self-reflective about my own behavior, but to find out why talented people derail. What goes wrong? To that end, I've dug through the extensive research about career derailment, interviewed scores of HR leaders, senior managers and C-Suite executives and surveyed 100 people, who—in what should have been the prime of their career—had been fired, demoted or whose careers had plateaued. From managers and leaders to executive coaches, recruiters, CEOs and C-Suite executives, I listened to them talk about why and how good careers went bad.
The Source of the Problem
I discovered that two top culprits are an inability to work well with others and a lack of self-awareness about personal areas of vulnerability. The big question for leaders: Why aren't we giving the kind of feedback to make people more aware of these shortfalls? I believe that often the strengths movement has been taken too far and used to the exclusion of other methods.
Leaders must look closely at 3 areas of their company to enact change.
Organizations pursuing a developmental strategy focusing on strengths alone will not lead to the career ascension of their employees. Soon or later, unaddressed needs will limit the career progress of good people—hurting both employees and the organization.
It's time to bring straight talk and candid discussions back into the company. Not just on performance review day, but every day.
Carter Cast is the former CEO of Walmart.com, a partner at Pritzker Group Venture Capital, a professor at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, Ill., and author of THE RIGHT (AND WRONG) STUFF: How Brilliant Careers are Made and Unmade (PublicAffairs; January 2018).
This article is reprinted from Chief Executive magazine with permission.
©2017. All rights reserved.
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