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The Self-Inflicted Pain - Back to Basics

Three weeks ago, I received a request to train a group of senior leaders - two of them are board members - on Finance for Non-Finance. I looked at the HR Director, forcing myself not to say what I thought.


What I thought was that: I used to train my line managers and supervisors on this, not senior leaders or board members.


In almost every conversation I have with HR & L&D, they say that "managers and leaders don't know the basics." My question is always the same; How do you hire? Here I talk about your hiring strategy.


Here is how we hire:

  • Based on attitude because somebody said it was a great idea

  • Based on being good in one's current job (I will write about it tomorrow)

  • Based on friendships and acquaintances

Then we complain, "Oh, I need to train senior leaders about how to conduct appraisals." Well, maybe we should build into our recruitment processes to assess these must-have competencies instead of asking, "Can you tell me an example of ..." for which we all make up stories for.

We must also have a list of criteria per seniority level that specifies the skills and the must-have training so we don't end up training our COO on something assigned to supervisors.

If you complain, "My managers and leaders are missing the basics, you hired wrong. I am sorry! They should not be in their roles.

I know it is hard to hear because it questions competence at the organisational level. But if we cannot face the truth that we are dealing with self-inflicted pain, we will be wasting our resources on telling them not to eat the packaging of their delivered lunch.


We know that we cannot drive organisations with skill sets like this. Unfortunately, the current culture encourages people to shed responsibilities and act like naive children. Look at social media, we are going back to basics. We tell/teach people:

  • Hot drinks are hot please be careful

  • Don't swallow detergent

  • How to breathe

  • You need to eat well to stay healthy

  • You need to sleep

  • Do not breathe underwater

You get the message, right? When we need to teach leaders the basics, we are telling them that they need to drink water every couple of hours...... This is not the workforce that will drive success.


PS: Once, I had a GM who told me I truly agreed with him: "If I need to call in someone to train you on how to do your job, I will fire you and hire somebody who knows." I genuinely cannot argue with this statement.


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