Showing vs Telling an Employee their Shortcomings: Uncomfortable but Sometimes Necessary

Thibault Hillmeyer

Chief Product Officer at Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems



About a month before taking a 4-week holiday, I introduced a new Product Manager to our team. Despite only recently graduating from a Master's program, he showed promise in terms of intellect and ingenuity. I dedicated his first two weeks to patiently training him with very few expectations. Unfortunately, I quickly recognized a tendency to challenge the assignments given to him. He demanded new projects often, yet he rarely delivered upon those we'd already assigned. Before I left for my vacation, I met with him to explain that he did not seem to be on the right track. I identified his troublesome behaviors and I gave him a very specific, detailed list of my expectations for him while I was gone. I asked him to trust that he is given work for specific reasons, and to simply delier on it based on that trust. When I returned to work, I was disappointed to find that he had not accomplished the tasks he was assigned.

Actions taken

I knew in my gut this person had a lot of potential with us, so I tried to think of a more meaningful way to motivate him. Before my vacation, I had already asked our data specialist to go deep into the data to determine how users were using the product, how the customer journey evolved, etc. I decided to hold an all-hands meeting to discuss our state of affairs. During the meeting, when we encountered a data question or need, we would ask the team members to share with the group what they've done towards addressing those areas. My intention here was to give this new PM a window into what everyone else was doing, and how his work related to it. It turned out that many team members were stalled in their work because he had not completed his own. He was a bit embarrassed, so a few days later, I met with him one-on-one. I told him that I now understood that it was important for him to have a global view of things in order to internalize the value of his assignments. I explained that we needed to be aligned in our tasks and deadlines, which requires us to deliver on things even when they don't understand their purpose. He immediately turned his approach around and became one of our highest deliverers. He is now doing the best job I have ever seen from a junior developer.

Lessons learned

  • Do not recruit a new team member shortly before you go on vacation.
  • Be open to bringing on people with differing work styles, as it will keep things interesting.
  • Delegate wisely.
  • Even though I am not naturally a rough or strict manager, it is sometimes necessary to take on that role.

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Thibault Hillmeyer

Chief Product Officer at Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision Making

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