One day, I was called in to give feedback to a company’s leaders on one of their directors who had been through our assessment center. The meeting was curious to begin with, since exceptionally high-level people were there. The meeting was called unexpectedly after being put off for months after the completion of the assessment center program. But, being a consultant, I was used to flexing to the whims of clients.
Within minutes, it was clear the meeting was not a typical collaborative evaluation of an executive, with people from inside and outside of the company bringing their observations to the table. It was a meeting to develop a case to fire the director for not being able to manage the relationships in a business alliance under his charge.
The director was a smart, talented technical expert. He was not, however, skilled at building rapport and managing conflict. In the field, we call this a “derailing” factor. In other words, he was derailed from his upwardly mobile track because he did not have people skills.
This is, unfortunately, a very common occurrence in organizations. It would have been better for the director if he had learned people skills or, even better, taken a job that better leveraged his technical skills.
I coached another mismatched director—a very smart and talented woman who was an extreme introvert, who preferred to work alone. You can only imagine how absolutely miserable this woman was, when her job was to manage personal relationships among her team, her peers, and the board. She was desperate to change jobs without burning any bridges in the process. Unfortunately, this is also a common occurrence, especially in technology-based companies.
Sometimes it is not about competence, but it is about job fit. The earlier you learn that, the less time you waste in unpleasant job situations.
Job fit is important at all levels in an organization—manager, employee, consultant, business owner, and so on. College students choose “majors,” fields of study that hopefully hold their interest and in which they get good grades. Of equal or greater importance, however, are the work environment and tasks associated with a particular job.
For example, I had planned to be a therapist before I applied to graduate school in psychology. But after talking to a couple of therapists, I found out that it was a very passive job, where you sit in a room all day and wait for people to come to you. It was not at all a good fit for me. I was so glad I had done the research ahead of time to learn what the work environment was like. I recommend you do the same.