Hello from a long time listener, first-time poster!
I am currently managing in a culture where most employees start in a technical capacity. Once they reach full performance, they are expected to either achieve a high level of technical expertise/specialization, or move into policy, leadership, and management positions.
One of my directs is at the point in his career where he does not yet have to take a formal leadership/technical expert role to be promoted, but does need to demonstrate the qualities needed for one path or the other. He has admitted that he does not have the technical chops to become a technical expert, but has also pushed back on some of the behaviors (increasing polish in communications, developing the art of corporate subordination) needed for advancement on the leadership path.
When I spoke with my predecessor, from whom I inherited the direct, he admitted that the direct has some professionalism issues. At the same time, however, the previous manager admitted that he hadn't addressed the issues because he got too familiar with the team he was leading and engaged in some unprofessional behaviors himself, becoming more of the "us" of the team and less of the "them" of management. My predecessor also consistently dimed out our bosses (two levels up from the direct in question) for difficult decisions rather than owning them as a leader should. My predecessor also created the expectation for the direct that he was ready for promotion, but that organizational politics were preventing him from getting promoted.
I'm trying to work with the direct to help him understand the importance of professionalism. I have provided feedback on specific behaviors and those do change. When address the bigger picture from a career perspective during O3s, however, he regresses into making excuses, hiding behind a colorful personality and offbeat sense of humor to justify his behaviors. I've seen him demonstrate great, professional behaviors when he tries, but he thinks he only needs to demonstrate them to senior audiences or in formal settings. He uses performance evaluations from my predecessor, as well as my predecessor's claims about his promotability, to justify his claim. How can I effectively encourage my direct to turn his "professionalism switch" on more consistently?