The phrase ‘square peg in a round hole’ immediately alerts us to a problem. But what about the square pegs, firmly pressed into their square holes? What do you do as a leader when a team member says, “There is no need for a development plan, I’m happy as I am.”
Now, it is great to encounter someone who has found a role that they enjoy and at which they are good. Organisations rely on safe, experienced hands; imagine the musical-chair turmoil if everyone wanted a stream of changing roles. However, this doesn’t mean less work for us as a leader. Nobody should be left to stagnate; moreover, opportunities for others shouldn’t be blocked by an unmoving incumbent.
The first thing that I would test is whether the person is really motivated towards their role and tasks or is instead avoiding alternatives for other reasons. Have they had a bad experience taking on more before? In which case trust needs to be rebuilt. Is it a lack of confidence that should be addressed, do they require encouragement, sometimes firm, to step outside their comfort zone?
If a person really is in the right place there is still growth work to do, it is the leader’s responsibility to:
I would always discuss and document this explicitly, framing tasks within the context of incremental growth. In my experience it is helpful for people to understand and look back upon the ways in which they continue to develop.
Leaders should be prepared to meet resistance – change is uncomfortable for most. By first knowing the other person, we should be able to get the balance right on healthy challenge, support and coaching. Our intent must be firmly placed in doing the right thing for the long-term growth of the other person, whether they are seeking it or not. After all, we may limit our expectations of ourselves, but the best leaders see no such constraints.