By Jack Cumming

It’s easier for executives to address the challenge of nonconformist residents than it is for them to address that of poorly placed executives, managers, team leaders, and workers. These misfits can plague an organization unless changes are made. It takes considerable skills of perception, counseling, and repositioning to unleash the full human potential of an organization.

Inc. Magazine shared, “In a recent poll carried out by Personal Group, around 70% of self-employed people reported that they were happy in their job. Only about 48% of those who work for someone said they were happy.” If over half the people in your enterprise are unhappy with their work, they’re not giving the organization their best. No wonder there’s a workforce challenge.


Matching talent to corporate needs is one of the most important tasks in any first-rate organization. Mechanistic matching is dehumanizing. As an example, if you need a fitness director, then you hire someone who majored in kinesiology in college. If you need a dining manager, you look for culinary training. If you want a marketing manager, then find a business major with a marketing concentration. That mechanical approach is common.

Also common is to require that jobs above the lowest level require a college degree. Often, as with officer selection processes for the military, it doesn’t even matter what that degree connotes. Any bachelor’s degree will do. That single requirement would overlook transformers like Andrew Carnegie, Harry Truman, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and many others.

Vocational Rigidities

Industrialization has become such a profound force in shaping American culture that decades ago we stopped speaking of “employee relations” and instead began to call people “human resources.” Still, people are not standardized in the way that “machine resources” are the interchangeable parts of a machine.

For instance, executive directors are often expected to be certified nursing home administrators after majoring in health care administration. We know, though, that the human dimensions of the job are so much more than just technical administration and compliance. Talented people who lack narrow requirements are overlooked, to the detriment of the mission.

The rapid pace of business, and the changes propelled by digitization and pandemic, have required many to adapt to new challenges. Adaptation can be reinvigorating and rejuvenating. It’s not something to be feared. As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus taught us, “change is the only constant.”

Adaptability Culture

Imagine you’re an executive director. Imagine, too, that you have a life enrichment director who is more gifted at sales and marketing than at the details of scheduling and provisioning successful events. You may also have a salesperson who is great with people and the detailed work of move-ins, but who is shy about asking for the close.

This can be a great opportunity to match two people with complementary personalities to create a better outcome for the community than either of them can provide working alone within the narrow bounds of a job description. Think of how much stronger the organization would be if both were working within the scope of their comfort and their strengths.

Examples like these abound. Consider a dining manager who is a pitch-in-and-do-it worker. That manager may not have the analytical perspective that innovates new concepts to enliven dining. At the same time, you may have a senior maintenance worker who is better hands-on than with paperwork. It takes a creative leader to help people find their niche so that they are happy and so the enterprise thrives.


The takeaway is that there is generally more talent and corporate potential in the teams that managers and executives lead than is evident on the surface. It requires a willingness to rethink positions to fit the available talent. That requires a special kind of leader. Those are the leaders who will thrive in the emerging world of the 21st century.