The Coach's Corner

You Can’t Put a Square Peg in a Round Hole. It’s All About “Fit”

July 24th, 2017 // Tom Doescher // 1 Comment
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Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

Years ago, Barbara and I were leading a mission trip to Ecuador. One of our 20 team members, “Charlie,” was quite challenging to our leadership team. He often showed up late and missed several required preparation meetings, he struggled to get paperwork completed on time, he talked too much at our tightly scheduled meetings, he frequently offered unasked-for comments suggesting we do this or that differently, and the list went on. I think you get the picture.

The general policy with mission teams was that the leaders had the right to excuse someone from the trip if they believed that individual would be a detriment to the team. In the case of the Ecuador trip, we would be traveling through a number of airports to a developing country where the government was unstable. We needed team members who responded to us.

A week before our departure, the leadership team expressed their concerns and said they thought it would be best to leave Charlie in Detroit. For reasons I cannot even explain today, I disagreed and assured the team that I could manage him, and the situation fell into my lap. (Let me tell you, working with Charlie really honed my leadership skills.)

During our trip planning and preparation process, Barbara had offered to administer the Learning From Your Strengths assessment to any team members who wished to complete it. Charlie volunteered to participate in the assessment. One evening in Ecuador, Charlie came to me with his LFYS profile and asked if we could talk. Several hours later, after he had shared his life story, including telling me that he had worked at many different financial services firms, I said to him, “I am at least an average leader, and you’re unable to follow me. After hearing your story, getting to know you over the past six months, and looking at your assessment, it’s evident that you need to be in charge. I strongly recommend you start your own financial services firm.”

When we returned home, he did just that — and over the next several years, I heard from multiple sources that his firm had become very successful.

Why am I telling you this story? If you’re a business owner or CEO, it’s part of your job to make sure people “fit.” In my March 7, 2016, blog post, I spoke about the importance of “attitude”; now I’m adding “fit.”

Charlie was obviously talented, but all his life he had been a square peg in a round hole. Do you have any square pegs in your company?

p.s. Charlie was a very well-meaning and talented guy. He painted a beautiful mural on the back wall of the Ecuadorian church we were constructing and, privately, he gave a very generous financial gift to the church.

One Response

  1. What an incredible chain of events that led to incredible insights and outcomes. Kudos to you for following that small voice in your head, creating a huge breakthrough for another.

    “Fit” is incredibly powerful. As you illustrated, poor fit can blind us (and, of course those poorly fitted to the situation) to uncovered talents, and a precise fit can cause people’s careers to soar. Yet, too often, people don’t understand this reality, and missed opportunities, frustrations, and failure abound.

    Great food for thought this morning. Thanks for sharing!

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Tom DoescherYou’ll find stories from the trenches, business lessons, and pertinent questions to help you find inspiration, professional growth, and leadership savvy.

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