My previous life as an executive with UPS Capital thrust me into a number of different roles. In addition to marketing and technology, I was also responsible for the credit card business unit. That meant that I was constantly involved in projects – a LOT of projects – to make the areas I was in charge of better. My job with these projects was, ahem… simple: put a team together, see that they had the proper resources at their disposal, and meet the objectives of the project.
I wasn’t involved in day-to-day project work because of the other things on my plate, but I took responsibility for the outcome. After all, I dreamed up or approved all of the projects we undertook.
Like most people in charge of seeing projects through I had my team of “go to people” that always got the job done. On one particular IT project, a fairly robust one, a peer of mine from another part of the company convinced me to put David in the lead role (of course, it’s not his real name. Never is, huh?). I didn’t know David well but he had a good reputation and he had the technical skills to get the job done. So I gave it a shot. David it was.
Shortly after the project began, David requested regular meetings with me to update me on the team’s progress. The updates were brief and thorough. He covered all the bases and the project tracked according to schedule. All seemed to be going well.
I had David present to a larger executive team near the end of the project and he did well. He received a lot of praise that day but something just didn’t seem right. David had only briefly mentioned a couple of his teammates and didn’t elaborate on their contributions.
Later that day I stopped by to tell the team how great things were going and what a great job David did presenting the project update. I got a lot of blank stares and one eye roll. After a little probing I got the scoop. David wasn’t pulling his weight. He was compiling the information from the other team members but wasn’t adding any value. He always had an excuse as to why he couldn’t perform a task or take action, especially when it came to grueling field reconnaissance work that required the team to work with the end users to understand their needs. It’s tedious work with a lot of listening and documenting required. It’s not fun, and David always found a reason why he couldn’t participate.
He was a leader in name only (I had made a HUGE mistake but that’s the subject of another post in the near future).
Along the way he alienated everyone. David kept up the charade for the remainder of the project and gleefully took accolades. Immediately after the project closure I handed out a 360-degree review to all team members.
David’s teammates detailed the work that they all completed. They complimented each other and relished in what they had produced. They were excited and proud of their work.
David? David was skewered. He was called out for his lack of leadership and contribution to the project. Several individuals went so far as to refuse to ever work with him again.
I met with David to share the results of his evaluation. He was defensive and had a number of excuses. He even attacked his team for a poor attitude. He wasn’t buying his team’s evaluation. I told David that he would never be on one of my teams again.
I made sure my colleagues knew about the situation and showed them the reviews. It really put a damper on David’s career. He stayed with the company for about a year after that and then moved on. That last year was lonely for David. He had alienated those around him and word traveled fast. He was left alone to work solo.
David was a comet. He shined brightly for a very short period of time and then burned out… alone.
Make sure you’re not a comet. I guarantee it’ll catch up with you.
- Take all the credit
- Blame others for their own mistakes
- Pawn their work off on others
- Always have an excuse of why they can’t do the work
- Think managing “up” is the most important work
- Look like they’re getting ahead but it never lasts. Never.