What to Do When a Rising Star Falls

 -  7/19/12

When a top performer fails, do you remove them from the company or give them a second chance? Columnist Kevin D. Wilde explores.

Imagine me, moving through the hallway to a meeting I don’t want to attend but where something has to be done.

Jon had been a top performer and a promising promotion just 12 months ago. Unfortunately, the rising star had fallen. Staying in the role was no longer an option, and there was only one question left: removal from the company or a second chance?

By its very nature, talent management planning is mostly about the positives: designating strategic roles, attracting and nurturing talent with potential, providing great development and plotting the next moves to maximize growth and impact. It’s the fun part of the job, and Jon had been a stellar product of this work, until now.

I had a few minutes to gather my thoughts before entering the room where Jon’s business and function boss would meet to debate the second chance option. In preparation for the meeting, I formulated a five-point checklist to guide the conversation and reach the right decision for all concerned.

Did Jon cross the integrity line? If yes, then no second chance. Fortunately in Jon’s case, ethics and values were never in doubt. The problem stemmed from other issues.

One trap here is if the performance track record has been superior, there is a temptation to issue a temporary pass on organization values and ethics. The best organizations make the so-called tough call to dismiss the high-performing, low-value leader. We all wish more would do so.

Does Jon have the skills to win? The current role could be such a mismatch for Jon that odds of growing the necessary skills for success are quite low. In that case, more time in the role or development interventions are wasted time and energy.

The issue then becomes whether Jon has valuable skills — differential competencies — that the organization needs. If so, then the discussion should focus on other valuable positions where he could succeed.

The trap is to replant someone with a performance issue into a holding role that doesn’t really do any good for the organization or the performer’s self-esteem.

Does Jon still have the sponsorship to succeed? Even with a good second-chance role, Jon may not make it without continuing sponsorship. Some cultures and leaders are more forgiving of a misstep than others.

Article Keywords:   talent   high potentials   high performer  


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