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When the "people stuff" isn't a top strength
EVERYONE can grow their people skills. EVERYONE can develop the skill-set to be a competent manager and team leader. I really believe that.
But sometimes, it’s a lot more trouble than it’s worth.
Some people just don’t want the aggravation of dealing with all the “people drama.” They just want to “do the work.” And if they are not interested in the people side of your business—dealing with staff, schmoozing clients, coordinating a team, etc.—then it might be a good choice to give them a track to professional success that doesn’t require them to spend a large chunk of their professional time doing something for which they lack both skills and interest. It’s a waste of their expertise, and the firm would be better off maximizing their time doing technical work, rather than growing them into grudging competence as a team leader or putting them into a client-facing role.
There’s a balance to this—some people don’t know they have the potential to be really good at things like team-building, client-work, etc. until they have been exposed to the opportunities. Never assume or “pigeon-hole” people. Sometimes that quiet introvert turns out to be an AMAZING mentor to junior staffers, for example.
But don’t force technical experts into management roles just because “they have been with the firm for a few years.” Don’t make that the only path they have for professional advancement. Maximize their ability to contribute their best work to your projects, rather than putting them in charge of a team who will likely be stressed and demotivated reporting to a less-than-competent manager. Ideally, have a technical track for professional advancement for those who are motivated to become your go-to experts for top-quality work.
Everyone’s morale will be better for it.