“The Fourth Key: Find the Right Fit” (Chapter 6)


In this week’s reflection of “First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently” by Buckingham and Coffman, we are going to discuss the importance of helping employees find the right role and continuing to incentivize them to excel in those roles over a long period of time.


The chapter begins by laying out the issues associated with employees “climbing the ladder” within an organization. Many employees are motivated to work hard for the next promotion, the higher salary or the more respected role within an organization. Unfortunately, in many cases, these sorts of incentives tend to pull employees out of a role they thrive in and put them in roles where their talents don’t align with the responsibilities.


“Some roles performed excellently are more valuable than roles higher up the ladder performed averagely.”


For example, you may have an outstanding sales representative who gets “promoted” into a managerial role. Just because that individual has mastered his craft at sales and has proven to be a very productive salesman, does not necessarily mean that he will enjoy or have the talents to master the art of managing a team of sales representatives.


Another example the book uses is the hierarchy of the education system. In theory, a principal is more valuable to a school than one individual teacher. It is natural for a teacher to have career aspirations of moving up in an administrative role that offers a higher salary and commands more responsibilities. However, promoting one of your brilliant teachers into a mediocre principal makes the system and everyone involved become less productive. Why not find a way to incentivize a brilliant teacher to continue to excel in their role and feel as though their hard work is being rewarded without feeling that need to jump to the next rung of the ladder which may not be the best fit for their talents?


The authors of the book offer a few solutions to help managers navigate the issues of “where do I go from here” that they hear from employees. The umbrella piece of advice is to create heroes in every role. You’ll always have some people who aim to climb the conventional ladder, but it is important for great managers to help employees see that the jump to a new position is not the only way to achieve respect, prestige, and personal career satisfaction especially if the jump moves you away from utilizing your talents.


The most intriguing philosophy discussed in this chapter is that of broadbanding. Broadbanding is described by the authors as “For each role, you define pay in broad bands, or ranges, with the top end of the lower-level role overlapping the bottom end of the role above.


“For example, at Merrill Lynch, the top end of the pay band for financial consultants is over $500,000 a year. In contrast, the bottom end of the branch manager role is $150,000 a year. This means that if you are a successful financial consultant and you want to move into a manager role, you might have to endure a 70% pay cut. The upside for the novice manager is that the top end of the manager pay band runs into the millions.”


I like this idea of broadbanding because it really makes an individual consider if a career shift is the right move for them. Sure, they may want the $1,000,000 paycheck, but will their talents fit the requirements of the role and allow them to reach that status? If not, they run the risk of making significantly less than they do in a role they currently excel at.


In summary, great managers, if possible, should find ways to help their employees achieve career satisfaction by creating heroes in every role. Encourage employees to take the next step up the ladder if their talents align with the role and incentivize employees to continue to excel and become masters of their current role if that role best suites their talents.

3 thoughts on “Create Heroes in Every Role

  1. Zach,

    You have an insightful blog post, and more companies and managers need to get on board with this concept. The “moving up” model seems to consume people to the point of losing their minds. It can make them forget where they are within the organization and not focus on the task at hand. Every move or action they make is just within a calculated plot to move on up the ladder.

    I very much like the idea of craftspeople coming back into our society. We have moved away from the idea that someone cannot perfect and perform a “simple” trade or craft at a level of mastery. Regardless of the career field in which one resides, we should always strive to perfect our position and not be so consumed with “moving-up.”

    Joe Rudy

  2. This post holds true to one of my thoughts, which is i know you can perform, but are you built to lead. In the military, there are certain milestones, which must be reached for promotion, but just because someone exceeds the standard, the question remains are they prepared to lead others. I have to admit that i have started at some jobs and i set my sights on the positions that would be above mine, but failed to ask myself if i was prepared enough to carry out the additional responsibilities. One way companies help nurture great performers are managerial classes, which help build leadership traits. I agree with your assertion that incentivizing a position can be just as rewarding as promoting an individual. As an entrepreneur, i look to grow my business through a blend of monetary incentives and an adverse promotion system (based on skills and employee potential).

  3. Hi Zach,

    Enjoyed your post. When reading it, I started thinking about the book and adage called “The Peter Principle” by Dr. Laurence Peter. For those not familiar with it, it talks about people being promoted to their level of incompetence. Broadbanding appears to be an interesting approach, I am curious what the data shows to the level of success it has had. Guessing that if folks really want to continue to grow and move up the ladder, they would be ok with a potential short-term loss in pay for the longer-term upside that might come with it. In her book, Radical Candor, Kim Malone Scott also has an interesting take on some of these things as well. She calls folks that might not be as ambitious in terms of moving up the ladder but great at their jobs “Rockstars.” The ones that are ambitious and want to continue to grow, she calls them “Superstars.” From her perspective, you need both at your organization. I don’t recall if she gives guidance around incentivizing the Rockstars to stay, but overall a great book!

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