Meet Sipho Nkabinde*. Sipho’s career was one of a true rags to riches story. He beat the odds and rose to the position of sales representative at a large corporate company based in Parktown, Johannesburg. Sipho was the top salesman for two years running and he always met and exceeded his targets long before month-end. His bosses recognised his success and rewarded him with a promotion to the prestigious position of sales department manager. For a month or two, everything kept running smoothly, but this is where the fairy-tale ends. Six months later, Sipho lost his job; both he and his department had failed to meet their targets for six concurrent months. The company had lost millions in revenue and many long-standing customer relationships were severed. Sipho’s bright career was cut short, not because he was incompetent, but because he was not trained to function in a managerial role.
Had Sipho’s employer’s taken cognisance of the Peter Principle, this debacle could have been avoided and Sipho would still be gainfully employed. This management theory principle, named after Laurence L Peter (co-author to Raymond Hull of The Peter Principle: Why things go wrong, 1969), suggests that organisations that promote people based on the fact that they are performing well at their current role, rather than those that have proven their abilities in the management or intended role, are putting their organisations at risk. Employees are being promoted until such a time as they reach a position of incompetence (because they aren’t sufficiently trained), at which point everything begins to fall apart.
The best manner in which to prevent this from happening is to allocate training spend to management training. Had Sipho’s superiors made this decision before promoting him to a managerial level, he may have been able to keep the department running smoothly. Management training should be utilised to forge a strong foundation for potential managers to work from while teaching them how to build morale, engage with others and communicate effectively with their subordinates. A well trained manager will flourish through effective leadership, appropriate motivation and efficient delegation.
* Sipho is a fictitious character for illustration of the principle.