I once had a conundrum.
I needed someone to manage the sales team. But the most qualified person was also my top-gun.
What could I do? If I took him off the frontline, it would take someone with pretty solid skills to fill his shoes.
But he was also the one who had the full picture of what the team needed, and the only one really capable of training anyone up into the role.
Some business owners will be tempted to leave your gun on the front line, and promote someone less capable into management, because “management’s not the real work.”
This is a very dangerous idea. Maybe you can get away with it, but you risk breeding resentment in your most talented employees. If they see talentless hacks promoted ahead of them, and into roles where they become the ‘boss’, how motivated do you think they’re going to be?
Second, you risk creating a culture where incompetence is rewarded.
And the incompetent will tend to promote other incompetent people because they don’t like to feel inadequate.
Suddenly, your executive suite will be full of douche-bags, and your best staff will keep on leaving.
There are a number of organisations out there like that, and somehow they seem to survive, but that's not the kind of leader you want to be, right?
And so, I promoted him.
I think you just have to accept that in hierarchical or team-based organisations, the people most capable of doing the work often aren’t the ones who actually end up doing the work.
It can be hard to let that go. You want results, you want to see runs on the board.
But your job here is to find ways to empower your team leaders to lead. To help them find a way to transmit their skill and levels of excellence to the entire team.
And you want to be the kind of organisation that rewards competence. There is a natural pull of talent towards the top. The most capable ones in an organisation are generally pretty easy to pick.
You need to get out of the way of that. Let capacity have the power it naturally attracts.
Let talent rise to the top, and push the skills and expertise back down the line.
What you absolutely must not do is push talent back down the line, and let incompetence rise to the top.
You might get short-run results, but you’ll create a massive mess for yourself down the line somewhere.
Empower talent at every opportunity.