The “Peter Principle”, named after the book of the same name by Dr. Laurence J. Peter, starts with the premise that “we are all promoted one step beyond our competency”. The society we live in creates lots of expectations and one of them is if you are very good at your job, then you should be a manager. So why do we take on that promotion when we are aware that it could damage our career? Usually because the increased pay, status, responsibilities makes it hard for us to say no.
A big part of someone’s employment is centred around the technical knowledge, skills and competencies of the role, which you learn and develop over time. When people accept a promotion into a management role, then there’s a whole new paradigm shift centred around people management. So, on one side of the seesaw, you have highly-developed technical abilities, on the other end are people skills. When you’re in a technical employment role, people skills are not so important. However, the day you take on a management role, people management skills and competency become paramount.
If your people management capability is not developed, then the business unit starts to struggle because the team has lost its top technical person to a management role and as a manager of people, you are struggling and even drowning in a role you’re not proficient in.
When someone cannot swim and find themselves drowning, they flay their arms around and grab hold and drag other people under with them, which is exactly what a new manager does when they are drowning in their role.
When an organisation has not invested in the development of a person’s managerial skills before promoting them, then they typically take 2 courses of action:
1. Let that person drown, which damages the function of the team.
2. They pull the person out of the pool, as in terminate their employment.
Then it becomes really sad when they turn around to the team and single out another to become the manager, repeating the same mistakes. Funnily enough, they don’t get many volunteers.
All of this can be so easily prevented when the organisation invests in training potential managers in people management, knowledge skills and competency.
Thus, there is no need for HR to have to become the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff and cleaning up the mess. Instead, developing a learning and development function of growing the organisation’s investment in human capital. This learning culture then creates an employment of choice.
Certain elements of people’s competency are discussed in my book Revolutionise The Way You Work Using Microsoft Outlook