Stuck and Struggling: Misplaced Persons

You’ve heard the phrase about getting the right people on the bus…and then, getting them in the right seat on the bus.

Well, it’s true.

One of the plagues of companies that are stuck and struggling is having the wrong people on board, or having people in mis-matched roles. And it’s incredibly common.

Puzzle PiecesI remember the struggles we had in one company hiring the right people for either sales/account management, or project management (in fact, this has been a common theme among many of the small companies I’ve consulted with). The skill sets are very different for someone seeking to make new business happen, versus someone who is operationally-minded.

It’s not enough to be smart, presentable, and ambitious – or even experienced. There are skills – personal and professional “wiring” – that suit people for certain roles and not for others.

Some are meant to hunt. Others are meant to farm. Some are managers. Others are builders. People are not interchangeable parts.

Here’s another common problem I’ve seen – people trying to make the transition from a big company environment (say, a pharmaceutical company) into a smaller, entrepreneurial setting. Even if the role is in the same ballpark – e.g., Sales – the climate, support systems, expectations, and workflow are entirely different. Some can make the transition – but I’ve seen many dip their toes into the world of smaller companies, and then retreat back to Papa Corporation.

On the other hand, some folks who truly belong in a startup or small business are currently stuck in a large company, unhappy and underperforming because the setting is a mis-match.

A growing amount of writing in recent years (my blogging included) has focused on understanding how introverts fit into the company environment. Introverts and extroverts thrive under different conditions and in different roles – even in different office settings. Highly talented people can be subpar performers, not because they are evil, or the company is awful, but because they do not have the right makeup for the job role. People are not infinitely malleable.

A leader of any team or business has to consider, not only talent, but cultural “fit.” Not all people will thrive in the same environment. And, as startups grow into larger entities, sometimes some of the initial employes struggle to fit into new structures. This is actually a natural evolution and the goal should not be retention at all costs. Companies, marketplaces, structures, and needed roles are always dynamic (to some degree). That may mean changing some of the people, and the seating arrangements, on the bus.

Previously in this series:
Stuck and Struggling: The “Can’t Let Go” Leader
Stuck and Struggling: Direction Attention Deficit Disorder
Stuck and Struggling: Navigating the Whitewater

Here are some of the upcoming topics:

  • Operational Vacuum (insufficient structure/process to enable growth)
  • Growth by Accretion (the tendency to take on new tasks and clients and people, without a clear plan)
  • Bad Clients/Wrong Clients (self-explanatory)
  • Inconsistent Revenue Model (something I and many others struggle with)
  • Broken Internal Communication (multi-faceted topic)
  • Commodity or Poorly Packaged Offerings (differentiation issues)
  • Scalable/Configurable vs. Custom Offerings (the craft-work, time-for-money trap)
  • Foggy Marketing/Messaging (failure to communicate clearly with clients and referrers)


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photo credit: IMG_2422 via photopin (license)

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