I put in an up-and-comer into a small leadership assignment several months ago. He was doing fine and I was mentoring and coaching him on a regular basis. In the last 3 weeks the program has hit a much higher tempo and there is a lot to do over the next 4-6 weeks. I've been working with him to give him the right tools and support, and working with his team lead on how to coach him. Unfortunately he's now not doing well. He's doing so poorly in such a quick period that one of the Directors has called and asked that he be removed from that position immediately. The tempo is too great and he can't take the risk right now. Another person on the team will be taking over the effort.

My question is, should I keep him on the existing team that he just led (I need all hands on deck now) or given the situation and potential personal embarrassment, should I move him to another project?


lindge's picture
Training Badge

Could you please clarify on a few things? Is this person a direct of one of your directs (you refer to his team lead)? Also, what was the actual situation that led to all this (I'm not sure what 'so poorly' means)? Also how do his skills fit with what is required over the next 4-6 weeks and the remainder of the project?

In the past I've seen a project manager have communication problems (not communicating effectively to different parties with vested interests in the outcome ) and I brought in another more experienced project manager to lead the effort with the less experienced project manager assisting him and learning.  It worked very well, and the less experienced project manager learnt a lot.  It helped that the less experienced project manager worked well with people and was an excellent analyst and was able to remain contributing to the project in a meaningful way.  He since went on to run other big projects with no problems.  But I woudldn't have advocated him remaining on the team if he was disrupting the team or causing divides between team members etc.

So, hard to say in your case without more detail....

tplummer's picture

I have an overall team lead who works for me, and then the person in question is a sub-team lead who also works for me. The overall team lead is more experienced and I've been mentoring him on how to mentor the sub-team lead. Confused yet?! The replacement sub-team lead also reports to me. The Director does not report to me and is a peer of mine.

So in your example you used, that's what I was hoping to happen. The overall more experienced lead would mentor the sub-lead and I would mentor both of them. But as I said, the sub-lead is not picking things up fast enough, not showing enough enthusiasm, not organized enough, not communicating effectively with his peers, etc. Maybe in a few months he could be taught these skills. But, nobody on the project was expecting it to kick into real high gear over the next 4-6 weeks. But it happens. Given we're at another level of urgency, the current sub-lead cannot stay in his position. Things are happening too fast and he's not learning at an acceptable pace. It was a stretch to put him in this assignment. Everyone knew he could do it, but we weren't sure if he would do it. Make sense? This was his litmus test.

My gut says that if I keep the sub-lead on the team as an individual contributor, it's not going to go well. He'll be more disruptive than productive. I could be wrong. But knowing his personality I would say he's going to take it hard. But given things are urgent, I could really use his expertise to get the job done. That coupled with I'm not sure I can place him immediately on another project. I think I'm talking myself into circles here...



lindge's picture
Training Badge

Tom - it sounds like you're on the fence in your last paragraph and could really go either way...  

Before making the decision, I'd recommend thinking through:
- what feedback was provided to the sub-lead during his time on the project so far?
- what coaching has been provided to the sub-lead so far?
- have you had an honest discussion with the sub-lead about his performance and the issues you mention?
- also, where do you view the sub-lead on both competence and future potential?

It seems at some point in the recent past everyone's view was the sub-lead was an up-and-comer and he was provided this project as a way to increase his visibility / contribution.  After a bad 3 week period, it now seems his reputation and prospects are in danger. Is it really that bad, or is your peer over-reacting a little?

If you view the sub-lead as someone who is competent and who has future potential, I would recommend keeping him on the project with perhaps a reduced set of responsibilities (especially as you say he had expertise that can help the project get done).  Perhaps also assign him to the team lead during the remainder of the project. He might take it hard (but likely not as hard as being completely removed from the project), but it's also an opportunity for growth for him. 

You could position this with him as an adjusted sort of litmus test - to show his resilience and overcome this obstacle &  learn , contribute and grow? We all receive feedback during our careers and the real test is how we respond to it. The sublead might surprise you... 

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

The only thing worse than him being a little embarrassed is him being a lot embarrassed that you don't feel you can trust him to behave as a professional when he stays on the project. That's what folks will assume if you put him somewhere else.

Talk to him and tell him this stuff happens. He probably learned a lot, and there will be more chances in the future. And, now, he needs to do what's right for the project just like he was before, only in a different role.

Ask him to step up just like he did before.