The Right People in the Right Position

March 30, 1999
Ron Rosenberg of QualityTalk tells this story about how he found what he liked and didn't like to do:

How do you find your passion? How do your employees find theirs? Sometimes you find it by stumbling upon something you really love to do. But sometimes you can find your passion by a process of elimination.

When I was in college, I participated in a co-op program where we alternated quarters of school with quarters of actual work experience during the final two years of the curriculum.

One quarter, I worked in the research lab of a large company, designing a computer system to analyze the data from their research. It turned out to be quite different than I was led to believe during the interview.

The work was very basic and lacked any significant challenge. The environment was very theoretical with no real practical application in sight for any of the work being done. I was very bored. In retrospect, of course, I realize there were many things I could have done to make the situation more exciting and the work more interesting, but I was only 19. What did I know?

When I finished this co-op block, I returned to school and met with my advisor to review the experience. I complained that it was a complete waste of time. I could have spent the three months doing something I liked -- something more similar to what I wanted to do after graduation.

He just smiled and told me that I'd probably just had the most beneficial co-op experience I would ever have. I found out in only three months what I didn't want to do for a living. Had I not had this experience, I could easily have accepted a full-time position doing this kind of work, moved to a new city, and been at least morally committed to staying there for a reasonable period of time.

If you have employees that are under-performing, it may be that they're not capable of working effectively in the organization. On the other hand, they may just be in the wrong position, or they may have been in the same position for too long. Looking at mismatches in this way can help you protect the investment you've made in your people while still maintaining the integrity of the team.

SOURCE:© 1998 QualityTalk. All Rights Reserved. Ron Rosenberg, President, QualityTalk, 800/260-0662, January 1999.