choicesThe major “people mistakes” of my career have occurred as a result of investing too much time and effort in trying to change people.

As leaders, we can enable change.  We can help people that want to change.  But trying to change people on our own is ultimately a fool’s errand.

In one case, a talented, but mercurial individual simply flamed out after several years (yes, years) of coaching, training, disciplining, imploring and anything else that I could think of to strengthen his inter-personal skills.  This was no simple inter-personal issue.  He genuinely pissed people off to the boiling point, although it was always carefully wrapped in supporting business priorities.

In another case, I spent another several years (yes there’s that “Y” word again) helping this individual expand her skill-set through job rotation and preaching.  It was never coaching, because she didn’t want any part of it.

She had a fierce sense of entitlement over being in charge of a group based on her seniority, yet to me, her skill-set was too narrow and her impact on others was typically negative.  She showed no signs of leadership or managerial capabilities.  Nonetheless, I counseled, coached and provided developmental experiences.  When I finally had a promotion to offer, I awarded it to the most deserving candidate.  In response to not gaining the promotion, this delightful individual left the company with no indication.  She just never showed up again.  A few weeks later, I was summoned to the CEO’s office where I was presented with a document indicating her lawsuit.  It was dismissed as frivolous.

While two examples don’t make a career, I learned over time how to invest in those that actively pursued change and development over those that felt entitled or simply were discipline problems.

Give me a person that wants to grow, and I’ll move mountains to help him/her advance.  Show me someone that feels entitled to a promotion or, engages in repeated aberrant behavior in spite of feedback and counseling, and I’ll move mountains to move them out.

Invest like crazy in those that want to grow and develop.  Just don’t spend too much time with the wrong people.