Leadership: Posers vs. Performers

According to the dictionary, a poser is defined as “a person who pretends to be someone they are not, or a person who attempts to impress others.” Instinctively, you know who they are, that person who talks the right talk, says the right things, never actually delivers but always manages to escape without repercussion. In some cases, they create such a positive illusion that they even increase the confidence of those around them.

In simple terms, these are the folks who may hold various positions – individual contributor, leadership or even Board seats – who are present but don’t really get results. Oftentimes these are individuals who fit the right image or managed to “talk” their way into a role via a strong recommendation. Once in the role, they continue to “say the right things” just enough to distract attention and maintain confidence. They never seem to connect the dots or make recommendations that truly impact organizational performance. Or worse case, they are so busy giving the impression that they are addressing issues by forever having “difficult conversations” and reassuring their stakeholders that they have addressed the issues, that the tough decisions never get made. The true trademark of the poser is that although they are often confident, well-liked and socially capable, they never really achieve anything of substance and oftentimes make more of a mess when they participate or interfere.

Having a poser instead of a performer in your organization, at any level and in any role, is costly and risky. We believe there are three key processes you can use to successfully mitigate the impact of a poser and address the challenges that result in your organization.

1. Recruitment & Hiring Process:

Posers are really good at interviewing. They inspire confidence, are warm, approachable and are often masters of saying what appear to be the right things at the right time. The difference between a poser and a performer is that the performer will be able to articulate, explain and provide specific examples of their success.

One technique that is useful to identify performers is to use the behavioural interviewing technique. This technique, although seemingly tough, asks candidates to provide examples of when they have achieved results in past roles. In addition, conducting reference checks and confirming the content outlined on an applicant’s resume is imperative. Posers are masters at inflating the role they played in a team or in leadership roles.

Asking the right interview questions and conducting focused and specific reference checks can help you to apply the appropriate filter to avoid hiring a poser.

2. Identifying & Managing Organizational Performance Indicators:

Attracting and enabling performers instead of posers from a performance perspective is dependent on outlining the objectives of the role and identifying the impact this person should have on the bottom line.

If the organization is unclear about the bottom line expectations and does not have a barometer of success, it becomes easier for the poser to waffle and talk “a good talk”. Not only are the ideal results important, Boards and Managers should agree on which indicators should link with one another. For example, the poser may boast and brag about the increase in the bottom line profit. Perhaps it’s been a good year, perhaps there has been a financial surplus carried forward from the previous year but employee satisfaction is at an all time low and attrition is at an all time high. The storyline of increased profit is a good one and examples of effort made may seem reasonable. But are you really clear on what the result is and the individual’s contribution?

The other technique of posers is to only use recent examples of success. Be sure to ask for and reference examples of performance over a period of time and map them to the strategic performance objectives set. Without a dashboard or integrated set of performance measures, it can be easy to become impressed with an isolated success and miss the fact that the other five key success criteria have been totally missed.

3. Accountability Processes
(Performance Management, Discipline & Termination):

Here’s the toughest one – managing and holding the poser accountable. The reason why addressing the poser is difficult is that there is often an apparent disconnect between what the individual thinks they’ve achieved and contributed vs. what they have actually accomplished. Further, it may be you who hired them and you were duped by their charm until sufficient time revealed all. Finally, there is often a logical and reasonable explanation, many times buried in a compelling story.

There is no shame in holding people accountable and managing performance at any stage or at any level, but it takes guts. If you have agreed on the performance criteria and expected results and the poser has fallen short, it’s time to have the difficult conversation! Using specific examples of where there is a gap can keep these conversations on track. Aside from the gap in results, do you really want the organizational culture to be one of just talk or about results?

If this article resonated with you and you would like further information about behavioural interviewing, strategic planning and developing meaningful dashboards on performance management, or would like to talk through your own “poser” challenge, please contact us.