The paper is mended to identify the seriousness of derailment, its impact to the person involves and the organization, and the way we can minimize the derailment risk from happening. Due to the limitation of pages, I would focus on executive level derailment to the fact that it has a heavy impact on loss of human capital investment comparing to those lower level personnel. I would then conclude with a derailment chart for the easy demonstration on those points that I would be going through during this paper. Via looking into the different stages of preventive measures against those derailment factors, we will understand that they are certainly important and significant to implement into the organizational functions to captivate the talents and minimize the loss.
What is the meaning of derailment? Derailment is originated from the one of the cause of train accident. However in this case we are not mentioning the way train derails from its track to cause a catastrophic disaster, but we are stating a form of development issue concerning the manager's career path. Thus executive derailment refers to the condition whereby the managerial level personnel go out of track from the original career path, creating damage to the organization's performance as a whole. Original career path refers to the timeline or possible condition when a person enters into the company, work and gets promoted to the top management post once he/she has a significant contribution to the company. Derailment study has its long history in the corporation around the world and is monitored by Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL) since 1970s.
3. Why people derail?
It is a norm that one would dream of achieving more recognition from their organizations, people around them and even from the society. Thus those corporations would use the promotion tools to motivate and empowerment the value added group to positions like senior management because they have the ability to obtain great results base on their successful past records. Researches had done from the past few decades indicates that many high potential managers with a huge cumulative of strengthens would become their major weakness in the later part of their career at the start of their managerial career path . Usually derailment behaviour surfaces from the employee a period after the promotion or at a time he/she is required to lead a team of people. CCL had identified 4 basic pre derailment syndromes, they are the problems in structuring interpersonal relationship; unable to meet his/her own business objective, leading to unable to meet organizational business objective; Inability to develop, form and lead a team; Struggling and high resistance to change or low adaptation during transition.
3.1 Problems in structuring interpersonal relationship
Basically we can group leadership in an organization under two categories: task/ solution based leadership and relationship-oriented leadership. Task/solution based leadership requires more on the result oriented practice whereby it would be need the person to complete his/her given tasks on time. Normally, for those managers who have problems with interpersonal relationship will be those who are very successful in their early career life because they are often good at tasks/ solution based leadership, which brings them to the next level of the management.
Interpersonal relationship also defines as a bonding or relationship between two or more people. The bonding can be build upon obsession, charisma and affinity, which are the foundation of people management . If one has a strong interpersonal relationship, then he/ she may have an advantage in people relationship since most of his/ her subordinates and heads have a favour towards him/her, leading to smoother operations, objective accomplishments and higher mutual agreements.
The lacking of interpersonal relationship skills would thus have an immense negative impact to those higher level jobs that require intensive amount of relationship oriented leadership skills. The imbalance in interpersonal relationship is an indicator of other serious relationship handling problems like insensitive towards others' feeling and over demanding, which was clearly presented in the interviews with the employees from the Fortune 500 companies indicate that most of those derailed managers have these kind of common background or behaviour .
Most of those derailed managers possess arrogant behaviour due to his successful past records in the field and treat subordinates as a form of tools to assist him/ her to build up his ambition. In one of the cases from IBM, 2003, a derailed manager would stop his job delegation and forming a centre decision maker of every tasks handle by his department, who had unknowingly transform himself into a dictator . Therefore, managers having interpersonal relationship problem are often unwilling to communicate, retain and prefer to work alone. In the end, the derailment reason may be due overloaded with work, which in turn also trims down the trust from his subordinates because of low empowerment. Simple saying, he/she is making everyone's life difficult.
3.2 Unable to meet his/her own objective, leading to unable to meet business objective
Managers, who are promoted from the task oriented job to a more people oriented job, would have good track records of past successful experience working on a solitary basis; it would be a bonus if he/she can continue these records after promotion. However, not all of those managers are able to maintain his/her previous records as team works are involve and the work performance and expectation would varies according to each of the team players background.
Failure to meet his/her personal performance expectation would lead those talents to derail . Mainly because of the inability to deliver promised result would lead to higher pressure and lower trust from the heads, lower self motivation of work and over pressuring his/her subordinates.
Managers would derail from his job feeling demoralise and reduction in self confidence on the factor that he/she is not able to deliver the desire result most of the time.
3.3 Inability to develop, form and pilot a team
Those relationship problematic managers often suffer from difficulties in handling his/ her staff as he/ she always projected that most of the subordinates are a form of burden to his workload and unable to transform his/ her staff into his/ her own power to complete the tasks. Thus lead to inability to build an effective team within a given period of time as the team would remain at storming stage under project management (forming, storming, norming and performing stages are discovered by Bruce Tuckman since 1965). In this situation, managers would not be able to obtain their expected results as majority of the time has been wasted in the storming stage which is a non value added stage.
3.4 Struggling and high resistance to change or low adaptation during transition
Managers are promoted to a leader position would also have to face his/her new boss with different style. Some of those derailed managers may be over dependent to his/her previous manager comes to the picture as they have a lower flexibility to adapt to the changes around. For example, for those who had a tightening head would have less flexibility to their own decision during their work. However, once they are transfer and put under a highly delegation boss, they would lose their way and feel extremely uncomfortable of wondering about. Some of the managers might only possess with a narrow skill set like only focusing in one area in business area before his/her promotion. Thus, if you want him/her to lead the department as a whole would be extremely difficult as it is totally stranger to him/her. Wrong strategic decisions will be make by the manager due to unfamiliarity in the working sector, which will lead to loss in business and even derailment for the manager himself.
4. Consequences and impact of derailment
4.1 Individual level
The derailed management would either be resigned, underperformance or even worst fire by the head. Often subordinates are the immediate victims of these derailed managers as they would have lost interest in their work, demotivated, stress out by their derailed managers. They would tend to be experiencing psychological pressure, lower productivity, lack of confident and even high turnover rate .
As derailed managers aren't able to meet business goals, in the long term, companies might suffer heavy loss in both business and human capital investment. Organization might suffer branding diminishing due to the result to higher unsuccessful projects in terms of finance. Furthermore, you are losing not only higher salary to non value added staff, but also losing a talent in those task oriented jobs as you promote him/her from one position to another. A research was done to estimate the cost of derailment in 2003 by DeVries and Kaiser, shows that it can go up to a USD of $75,000 to $1,500,000 per senior managers .
From the past years research data in table 1, it indicates that organizations have always been facing management derailment and losing business opportunities and talents for up to an average of 44.5%, which is not a good sign indicating good top management planning.
Those derailment managers would also treat their subordinates badly and indirectly transfer their negative actions to the lower level, which would be a major damage to the organization as a whole. It may lead to passive and aggressive behaviours according to the study conducted in 2006 . In the worst scenario, it may even create interdepartmental rivalry which brings negative impact to the business and deteriorates the bonding between each department .
5. Transform poison into potion
5.1 Pre syndromes measures
Succession floor plan: As stated by Karise, 2005, that at different levels of the organization structure or position, you are require to have different behaviours, skill set and view point in order to accommodate to the change in job requirement. Thus when a corporation is lacking of succession management, it might lead to the peck fall of derailment, losing of task focus talent during the promotion period, which many of the HRs may think that it is a form of motivation tools. Succession floor plan enables the top management to identify who are the potential one that have to ability to manage the drastic change in the career by having frequent observation and 360 feedback system from those working along with him/her. Some corporations, like CITIC bank and RBS, might conduct a series of stress tests to their current employees or to have bonus system to transfer his/her performance or characteristics into a form of quantitative point system electronically, which would then forecast his/her ability and which motivation tool to use.
Apprenticeships: For those who are identify as the potential ones to become top executives, they might have to sit in the position for a certain period to get use to the position before actual promotion, once promoted there is no turning back. Apprenticeship gives an adaptation period to those managers to see if they are able to fit into the position. If they show some derailment syndromes, the company should either train them to adopt to the change or promote them only in the financial way.
5.2 During syndromes measures
Mentoring programme: It is being put on practice by the RBS since 2005, which have been a successful rate to retain and improvement potential derail talent of about 20-30%. Chris Dixon, the current Human Resources in Organizational effectiveness stated that the higher position you are, the less information you are going to disclose to your subordinates, as those executives would not want people to know their weakness easily. Thus by implementing the programme of mentoring, which the mentors are normally those top executives would have more opportunities to express their feelings and needs to them. The reason is simple, the top executives have the ultimate power in the organization and you get to express directly.
Management Training Programmes: There are workshops dealing with stress level of work, but seldom would we encounter workshops dealing with ambition and control of power. A series of leadership programmes conducted by London Business School, which surround team building, balancing the ambition and expectation and power controlling, enable executives to build their own comfort zone when dealing with people relationship without barriers.
5.3 Post syndrome measures
Derailment feedback session: The session should be conducted when the employee has a definite willingness to derailment. Before he/she leaves the company, it would be an opportunity to know your current succession system's performance. Gaining knowledge from those feedbacks would strengthen the filtering layer when it comes to promoting the right staff and not the strongest performance staff.
Feedback analysis: Derailment is not an entirely bad news for the company, as the feedback of those derailed managers who are preparing to leave the company, he/she will seldom have hesitation in giving out negative comments on the current system or the way we should avoid during the talent selection progress. It is indeed a good comment to improve the current system. While analysis the trend of derailment within the corporation, you are able to identify unique vital factors that lead to derailment in your own organization, which you are not able to obtain from CCL.
Companies should not promote people just base on their business performance, but also have to consider the employee's own ability and personality trait. If not, the promotion tools would turn into a poison to derail talents from your company, which on another hand would be a gain to your closest competitors.
The picture 1 below shows the overall picture that I had presented throughout my report. As people from different departments would be attracted to the top management position, demand of willing to become top executives is always higher than the supply of position. Thus the company make use of a series of talent management programme to filer out those potential candidates and promote them to middle management position. However, not all potential managers have the ability to make it to the top level due to the given reasons above. Therefore company would place in another filter to sort out those truly talent in both people skills and technical skills. Not all potential derail managers are filter out, which might lead to derailment in the end. With a derailment feedback session in the end would provide information on the ways to improve the system to make it more accurate and strengthen the filter at the talent pool.
A series of derailment prevention measures would lead to lower derailment case and better talent management for the corporation.