Some people hustle so well, and produce such exceptional results that a promotion to leadership is clearly in order. You bring them into your office, celebrate their success, eat some delicious cake, and award them with a team to lead.


Nearly a year later, you’re scratching your head, confused by their poor attitude, and irritated at their results, or lack thereof. In addition, you’re now dealing with their team of disgruntled, frustrated, employees who are now in the market for a new job.


What happened?


This is the exact scene at a technology company based in Maryland. The executive producer, Michelle, stands a good chance of losing a valuable employee because, as her employee said, “I don’t want to work for that guy anymore.”


Concerned about the team, Michelle took to the hallways, roped in a few folks on the team, and asked, “How’s it going? Any problems or concerns I should know about?”


For nearly an hour, she heard various aspects of the following— “That guy is rude, unprofessional, and doesn’t value our experience. He has horrible communication skills and when you question his methods he’s dismissive, points to his expertise, and reminds you of where he sits in the hierarchy. ”


Realizing she may lose the entire team, Michelle set up a one-on-one with Ted, the manager of this team. In preparation, she thought back to the reason this team was shifted under him several months ago.


Ted produced excellent results, and a lack of company resources meant that someone needed to take over this team. So, despite his clearly articulated distaste for managing others, Ted was promoted into leadership.


“He’s excellent in his job,” Michelle said, frustrated at why he would think it’s okay to talk to anyone the way he had been for months. “Misti, I saw the emails he sent to them,” she said, “and I would quit if I had to deal with that!”


With a real desire to shift the direction of this team, Michelle started off the conversation pointing right at the elephant— “The morale on this team is low, and many of them have started looking for new jobs. What’s happening and how can I help?”


“I don’t care if they quit,” Ted said, flatly, “They’re rude, obstinate, immature, and unprofessional! I curse the day I took the team on.”


For most executives, that kind of a response may very well be enough to push them over the edge and fire Ted. Instead, Beth leaned in and asked more questions, which lead her to the realization that underneath his defensive, aggressive behaviors, Ted felt incompetent managing others.


And, he doesn’t have an interest in developing the skills that would strengthen his results as a manager. He has no interest in managing others to do the work—he wants to do the work.


While it’s easy to think Ted should buck up, and do what’s needed for the team, Beth dug a little deeper and asked,


  • How can I help Ted reach his professional goals?
  • What resources or training does each employee need to succeed?
  • What does success look like with this part of the product, and how can I help them refocus on it?


That’s exactly what’s she’s doing, and has been met with positive results she never expected. Not only did trust, morale, and collaboration increase, but their entire team is more dedicated to the success of this product then ever before.


Of course, there are greater issues within the company, but Beth has turned this team around as a direct result of her greater commitment to her employee’s success.


Before promoting anyone into leadership, answer these three questions:


  1. What does leading the team mean? What are the new responsibilities associated with this position? Will there be an increase in benefits that reflects the increase in responsibility? Be specific.
  2. Do they want to lead others? If so, why? There is no wrong answer, but knowing the answer will help you make good decisions. If they don’t want to lead, and you need someone in the position, get creative. Who else might be the unlikely candidate?
  3. Do they want to learn or develop the skills necessary to effective leadership? If not, don’t put them into the position.


Dealing with a similar issue? Shoot me an email (direct: and, together, we’ll get to the root of the solution, and get your team back up to full speed today!


Thanks to LN Lurie for producing this podcast.