A few years ago my company was in the midst of one of the largest projects in the history of our organization. The project involved many people—it was very complex and financially challenging. It was also in trouble. I needed to select a key player for the project team. The man I chose had incredibly strong technical skills. He was very qualified for the project and was the perfect person to help turn this around . . . or so I thought. I knew he came with a lot of baggage. He didn’t always play well with others, he would fly off the handle emotionally when talking to people and, worst of all, he brought an immense amount of drama to the workplace. On the other hand he was highly qualified for the work. Based on those qualifications, I hired him as manager. I suspected there would be problems with the drama and the outbursts – however, I felt I could coach him and guide him through this.
It turns out I was wrong. Monumentally wrong.
Despite his incredible technical skills, his behavior more than offset his technical strengths. The project went from problematic to horrific within a year. It was way over budget, well behind schedule, and not nearly the quality that I expected. Around this time, one of the project team members told me that the best thing the project manager could do for a meeting was to call in sick! The team member said when the manager was not there they got a lot more done.
Right about that time, I attended a presentation that Stewart Emery did where he talked about the concept of “Who’s in Your Room?”. I walked out of that presentation and decided right then and there that this project leader should have never been in my room. I also realized that getting him out of the room was going to be very difficult. Why? Because he kept everything close to the vest. Most of the people in the project didn’t understand or know many of the aspects of the work, because this project leader didn’t collaborate or share information freely. I understood that removing him from the room was going to be difficult and painful. But I was clear on the reality that it had to be done.
It ended up taking months to lay the ground work with everyone on the team by me personally engaging them in pieces of the project they needed to know but weren’t privy to with this manager. I had to drop many of my normal responsibilities and devote an immense amount of time to this process. I promoted some people and moved others around. When all was ready, I made the move and let go of the project leader. There was an immediate and palpable change in the project. Today it has made incredible strides, and it is becoming exactly the product that I was hoping for and it is something I am proud of as an entrepreneur.
The lesson I learned in this very expensive and very stressful process was this: be very selective about who you let in your room. Don’t allow people in just because of their technical skills. I want a work environment that is a “drama-free” zone and I pick people for my organization who I want in my room. I now try to select qualified people who fit the organizational culture of collaboration, people who share information and knowledge and people who don’t bring to the process an Emmy Award winning soap opera of behaviors.
Have you experienced this phenomenon? If so, please tell us about it in the comment forum below and, also, please share any thoughts you have on Stewart’s Who’s in Your Room concept. Thanks!