Oct 15

What Gets You Fired…

Heinz Landau
Heinz Landau is a seasoned business leader who has gained valuable working and leadership experience on three different continents.

“What gets you fired… and what gets you promoted” is a concept which Prof. Paul A. L. Evans who is a professor of Organizational Behaviour, Organizational Development and Human Resources at INSEAD University, Fontainebleau, France, has developed. I have seen him using it in presentations in Chicago, Bangkok and Fontainebleau and it has impressed me and the audience every time. Due to the rather provocative tonality of the above statement, it is always an immediate attention grabber.

Prof. Evans claims that in your job, you typically have two roles:

a) the operational role and

b) the development / project role.

While a) is focusing on the day to day operational work or on “today´s quarterly result” as Prof. Evans puts it, b) is concentrating on “tomorrow´s products, services and capabilities”. The development / project role is dealing with strategy, market and business development (external), internal development (e.g. re-engineering) and leverage and linkage across the organization (transversal).

Prof. Evans claims that previously employees spent about 98% of their time in the operational role while they used only about 2% of their working time for the development / project role. However, today a major shift has taken place and the development / project role has risen to about 40% while the operational role accounts only for about 60%.

Prof. Evans states that one day, when you are no longer good enough in your operational role (e.g. the job requirements might have changed and you might struggle to cope), you might get fired. At the same time, Prof. Evans claims that you typically get promoted for the contributions that you have made in your development / project role. From my own observations and my own experiences during my long career, I am fully in support of Prof. Evans´claims.

Let me share with you an example: A supermarket in Bangkok, where I used to do my grocery shopping  for many years and where I became familiar with the long-serving cashiers, computerized its cashier system. One day, I came to the supermarket and all their old-fashioned cash registers had gone. And so had the cashiers! They had been replaced overnight by a set of new cashiers who had the skills to operate the new computer cash registers. The old cashiers might have been excellent in their operational role, but when the company brought in new equipment, they weren´t able to handle it and were laid off. They were replaced by computer-savvy staff. You can surely argue whether the Management of the supermarket should have acted this way, but I guess it´s not an isolated case in today´s business world.

Since I believe that there is a lot of truth in Prof. Evans´”What gets you fired… and what gets you promoted” – concept, I always use it when I give a welcome speech during onboarding events for new employees. It always gets me the immediate attention of the audience and enables me to drive home the message how important the development / project role for every employee is to get promoted. And, of course, it is equally important for the company, since often valuable innovations are created in these development / project roles enabling the company a brighter future.

Let me share with you one more important message that I try to get across to the new employees during the onboarding event. “If, for any reason, you do not enjoy working with us here, please do not stay with us.

Life is too short to hang around in a place which you do not enjoy.

After all, you spend a substantial part of your life at work.”

Then I tell them to make sure to talk first to a colleague, a friend, to someone from the Human Resources Department, to their boss or to myself, before taking the decision to resign. I encourage them to discuss the issue with somebody who is more senior and mature than them, since such people have more experience and might have faced such situations themselves before (and, by the way, might have noticed that the grass is not always greener on the other side) and typically have a broader view on the issue. Finally, I tell them to listen to their heart and to follow their heart when they are making the decision to stay or to go, since, in the long term, it´s not the financial aspect that counts.

You might think that it´s easy for me to make such a statement, since I have reached already a fairly high position in my career and have acquired a certain wealth. But in reality, it is easier to take such a decision like leaving a company at the early stages of your career. As a young person, you can afford to take a higher amount of risk, since you obviously have less to loose.

You still might wonder how the two above rather provocative statements “What gets you fired… and what gets you promoted” and “If you don´t enjoy working with us, please do not stay with us” relate to the topic of this blog “caring leadership”. Well, I believe that it is important that we deal with each other in a company with respect and also with openness. Therefore,on one side, it is good for the people to know what brings them ahead in a company (and what not). And, on the other side, it is important to understand that, if the employee or the company have made a wrong decision while choosing each other, there is an opportunity to correct the mistake and to make the life of the employee and / or the company happier again.

This entry was posted on Thursday, October 15th, 2009 at 16:31 and is filed under Human Resources, Leadership, Management. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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