Performance Improvement & Professional Development

Peter Principle Pitfalls

Here’s an all too common problem in organizations today, promoting people to a management position – but not teaching them the skills they will need to manage effectively. We call this the Peter Principle, based on the book by the same name and the extensive research of the author of that book, Dr. Lawrence J. Peter.

An example could be an automobile dealership. The person with the best selling (technical) skills is promoted to sales manager. Absent natural ability – or some type of management development program, both the organization – and the newly promoted manager are in a lose-lose situation. The organization loses a great sales person – the newly promoted manager quickly becomes overwhelmed and frustrated.

Avoiding the Peter Principle Organizationally

Organizationally – it’s important to understand causes for the Peter Principal. In top-down structures, if an individual is good at what they do (technically) they are likely to be promoted until they reach what Dr. Peters called “a level of final placement.” Eventually, one will reach a level beyond their level of competence.

Being a good sales person, equipment operator, or account manager are not predictors of management success. Technical skills and people (soft) skills are frequently two different things.

Skills like learning to be an effective communicator, knowing how to delegate, learning how to problem solve need to be taught to those folks in the organization that senior management and leadership have earmarked for promotion. Good managers either have – or must develop- strong people skills.

Avoiding the Peter Principle – Individually

If you aspire to a management position understand what good managers do. Peter Drucker said managers – in any organization – perform five essential roles: they organize, they set objectives, they measure, they motivate and communicate and they develop people – including themselves. I would put communication skills and the ability to develop people at the top of the management skills list.

Your technical acumen will not necessarily translate into management ability. Being a highly skilled whatever is important but, moving into management or leadership – is a whole new ball game.

Peter Drucker also said: “They only way to get the future you want is to create it.” If you aspire to climb the organizational ladder, make sure you are developing the skills necessary to ensure your success. Take personal responsibility for becoming the person you want to be and succeeding in the position you want to have.

Remember, proper preparation prevents poor performance.

About the Author

Les Taylor is the founder and managing partner of Outperformers International. He is an award-winning author, professional speaker and recognized expert in the field of performance improvement and professional development. Les is a former law enforcement executive, served as the executive director of the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police, is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and is a past president of the Arizona Chapter of the National Speakers Association.

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