Corporate America’s management ranks are, for lack of a better word, bloated. In a 2016 Harvard Business Review analysis, it was estimated that the annual cost of excess corporate hierarchy is about $3 trillion. This number has continued to increase in recent years.
Why? Because the United States is obsessed with management. Think about it, when you are rewarded for being good at your job, your reward most likely will present itself in the form of a promotion to a manager.
This type of reward is problematic, primarily because not everyone is meant to be a manager; a truth that almost everyone can agree upon. In the late 60’s Laurence J. Peter developed what is now known as the Peter Principle. The principle is based upon the rather paradoxical notion that a competent employee will continue to be promoted (and rise in corporate hierarchy) until they are finally promoted to a position that they are not good at, simply because they are not trained or prepared for the said position. This individual will then remain in this position because they do not exhibit any further competence that would provide recognition for an additional promotion. We see this often when it comes to managerial promotions.
This, in turn, can set up an entire team, not just the promoted manager, for failure and inefficiency. First, in promoting a competent and successful worker to a managerial position that they are not suited for, as a boss, you are draining their unique talent and overlooking their ability to perform well and succeed in a role that is a better match for them. Secondly, when promoting an individual to a managerial role, who just simply is not suited to be a manager, their whole team will prove inefficient.
A recently published Atlantic article points out that the reason behind this obsession with managerial positions is “cultural and fiscal.” It is easy to give people leadership positions, but it is difficult to continue to justify paying people more for being good at their job. Many issues might arise at this increase in salary; among many, fellow coworkers might find their pay raise subjective, as it is sometimes hard to quantify what makes an employee better than the other
This same article then provides a solution to the problem at hand. It states that it is time corporate America starts organizing themselves like a well-managed NFL team, who focuses on talent and potential. Well-managed NFL teams draft their future starting quarterback before their current quarterback is out of his prime and looking to retire. By doing this, the future quarterback can observe and learn from the starting quarterback so that he too, can one day become a successful starter. The current quarterback then serves as a mentor, not a manager or coach, to the future quarterback. The current quarterback is subsequently being paid more than the future quarterback, but that is because he is better at his job. Everyone can see this difference in skill but also the opportunity for potential; their differences in pay shouldn’t be a point of contention. The goal is to show the future quarterback that with the proper training and hard work, he too can one day be paid the same as the current quarterback, who is guiding a winning team.
Many might fear that in being a mentor, not a manager, that they are training your own replacement. However, there should be an understanding that, like in the NFL, the goal in business is to win, to out play your competitor. In most cases it will take years for an individual to train their lesser to be as good at their job as they are; in some cases their lesser may become their superior, and prove themselves to be better at your job than the then superior is. That’s okay. Each employee must remember that a company is like a team, and if they can no longer lead your team to win, then someone else will have to. If they want to win, they should be okay to make sacrifices to ensure this win.
Growing talent within a business will not only allow the “mentor” to work harder and thus be more successful, but it also serves as a way to keep talent in your company, rather than give it to a competitor, which in turn makes the company more successful.
It’s time to start thinking like an NFL coach (you do it every Sunday anyway).