Are They Good at Their Job?

Something is not right with a member of your team. You know it. Their manager knows it. Their teammates know it too. It's not that they're not working hard. It's something more personal than that.

  • You hear the low groan of gossip and the off-hand comments about them slipped into a conversation.
  • You see them fall short on commitments or quality and then attempt to shift the blame elsewhere.
  • You sense the tension between them and others in meetings.
  • You wonder, even though you'd like to get back to your day, what else is happening beyond what you're seeing on the surface.

And yet, when you try and talk to their manager, you'll often hear something odd. It's something you've heard yourself say in these situations too:

“But they’re really good at their job.”

The problem is, it’s not true.

It might be true that this person is good at some of the technical elements of their job; coming up with marketing ideas, writing code, making sales calls, moving fast through support tickets, etc. But what’s not true is that having one of those skills makes you good at your job, or a valuable member of the team.

If all a member of your team has going for them is a technical skill then they’re not good at their job. They’re terrible at it.

Being good at your job means being good at being part of a team. And being a member of a team is all about relationships. Or, better said, it’s all about relationality. It’s in the ability to own how you impact other people. To stand up for yourself when others impact you. And, more than anything, it's being able to be a vulnerable professional, someone who has the skill to name what they're feeling rather than sitting on it and then acting it out.

It’s not some fantasy notion of authenticity, getting to say whatever you want whenever you want.

It’s learning how to speak your mind respectfully and be open to learning things about yourself that you don't know yet (aka personal growth).

And here’s the most important part: It’s not your employees’ responsibility to figure all this out. It’s yours. So, what do you do when you hear one of your colleagues (or that voice in your head) avoid the real conversation with: "But they're good at their job."?

Remind them that it's their job—it’s the job of every person in the organization who has people reporting to them, including the CEO or Founder—to show the people in their care the gap between where they are and where you need them to be.

Here are four questions you can use to guide someone to re-find their inner motivation for growth:

  • "When you ________, how does that make life harder for your teammates?"
  • "When you ________, how does that make life harder for me, as your manager?"
  • "When you ________, how does that make life harder for our customers?
  • "When you ________, how does that make life harder for you?"

Have you ever worked for someone who asked you questions like that, who engaged with you about how you show up instead of about your projects and tasks?

The fastest way to help someone grow is to help them see how they're impacting the people around them without realizing it. It wakes us up to things that are easy to lose sight of. It reminds us of who we want to become and how much we genuinely care about the people in our world.

Build your organization with managers like that. Because that's what good at your job means for them.

Jonathan Raymond