How responsible are you for your employees’ success?

How responsible are you for your employees’ success?

  |  November 7, 2012

When I was a new CEO, I misunderstood why some employees performed well with my direction while others did not. Even worse, I allowed some employees to be mediocre for too long while I gave up on others too soon.

Organization-wide, we were all struggling with this same issue: what are the appropriate responsibilities of managers in accountability? So we hired a consultant to help us, and while she taught us many things, the one that stayed with me the longest and helped me the most in the following decade was “K.S.D: Knowledge, Skills, Desire.” Based on Steven Covey’s book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, KSD describes the role supervisors must play in nurturing those qualities. It goes like this:


For employees to perform well in their positions, they must have full knowledge of what performance is expected of them.This means having an accurate job description and receiving effective orientation and training. The knowledge of what is expected of employees is 100 percent the supervisor’s responsibility.  


When we hire, we require certain skills and we are looking for the best match of candidates’ skills to our positions’ requirements. But no matter how great the match, there will always be new skills for our employees to learneither to help round out their skills or to help them grow with the position as it grows.

Employers have a vested interest and a responsibility to help employees continually improve their skills.  The employees come to the table with some skills but we have to come to the table prepared to invest in strengthening their skills. The responsibility of building the employee’s skills are shared50 percent the employee’s responsibility and 50 percent the supervisor’s responsibility. 


Lastly, there has to be the desire to perform well.  As managers, we can provide the knowledge and the skills but we cannot provide their desire.  We can try to inspire employees to be a great performer and we can provide more training and good coaching but in the end, they have to want to do a good job. So, desire is 100 percent the employee’s responsibility. 

Clearly understanding my responsibilities and limits was a revelation to me. I had a way to sort out a solution for a failing employee. Had I done a good enough job in providing 100 percent of the knowledge and 50 percent of the skills?

And importantly, I learned that his/her desire was out of my control. No matter how much I wanted an employee to thrive, he or she still might not even though I provided the knowledge and skills, because there was no way I could manufacture desire for him or her. And without the real desire to do a great job, he or she wasn’t going to be successful in fulfilling a role with us.

Understanding the responsibilities and the limitations through the “KSD” lens made me a better leader and made our organization stronger throughout.

About the Author

Jeanie Wells

Organizational Development Consultant

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