Playing people out of position can hurt your business

Posted on December 4, 2018


Over the last week I’ve been thinking a lot about choosing the right people for the right positions, and how important it is for a successful business.

Last week I gave my 10-minute presentation at my networking meeting, BNI Chester. For my presentation I had to complete a mini profile that would be read out by another member, introducing me to the room. This mini profile included the question ‘What’s your key to success?’ and I wrote ‘Doing the things you’re good at and having the wisdom to delegate to others the things you’re not so good at’.

I didn’t realise how true that was until the events of Wednesday night, both in watching football and BBC’s The Apprentice.

During Wednesday night’s Champions League action, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp played centre back Joe Gomez out of position at right back, believing him to be the better defensive option than regular right back Trent Alexander-Arnold. This meant playing Croatian defender Dejan Lovren at centre back instead of Gomez.

The idea was that Liverpool would be more defensively solid, even though they were playing one player out of position and one lesser defender and centre back. It didn’t work, and Liverpool lost 2-1.
Equally, on the Apprentice, Canadian candidate Jackie Fast (who was head and shoulders the best candidate in the competition) was played out of position on her team’s task. Despite being the best pitcher, and the best seller, and an obvious choice to present on the task of selling products via a TV shopping channel, she was relegated to the backroom staff pressing buttons. The two candidates who decided to present were, predictably, awful and the team lost the task.

The project manager, Tom Bundy, was fired on the spot and Fast paid the price for not being forceful enough to insist on presenting. Had she done so, the team would have won the task, no question. She was also fired.

This brings me back to my BNI mini profile, where I mentioned doing the things you’re good at and choosing others to do things you’re not good at. It sounds obvious but, as we’ve seen with these examples, it isn’t. It’s human nature to want to show what you can do at something – to show you’re capable of more, even when there’s someone else around who is better suited to the task at hand.

To digress slightly, I remember in primary school – I must have been around eight or nine years old – when we were playing rounders in the playground. Someone hit the ball and retrieved it quickly. They were running to the base and all I had to do was to throw the ball to the person on the base and they would get them out. I didn’t throw it through, because I didn’t want to trust someone else to be able to catch it. Instead, I ran with the ball to the base, even though I had no chance of beating the batter to the base. I failed and we didn’t get them out.

I should have delegated. I should have thrown the ball. I was the wrong person to attempt to get them out.

Tom Bundy was the wrong person to present on the shopping channel. Dejan Lovren was the wrong person to play centre back against Paris Saint Germain.

This also applies to channels of social media and methods of online marketing for business. I have lost count the number of times people ask me about running Facebook advertising for their business because they’ve seen it mentioned, or someone has told them about it. They’ve heard how it’s low cost compared to Google AdWords or SEO, and how businesses are making a lot of money through it.

Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s right for them. It doesn’t work for every business, and you shouldn’t just plough money into something because you’ve heard it works for others.

The same can be said of SEO too. In previous online marketing companies where I have worked, they would take on any client for SEO, and optimise their website for keywords in exchange for payment from the client, even though the client had no chance of recouping any of the budget. Their website was never set up to do so, or their industry just didn’t have the search volume for it to work.

Not every person is good at everything. Not every method of online marketing works for every business. When someone asks me about a certain type of marketing I don’t say ‘Yeah, we can do that for you’, I instead say ‘what is it you’re looking to achieve, and why?’.

If you know what someone’s goals are, you can find the best way to help them achieve them. Often, the question they’re asking isn’t really the question they want an answer to. ‘Can you run Facebook advertising for me?’ is most likely ‘Can you help me get more business via the internet?’.

There’s a lot more to this online marketing stuff than just keywords, you know?

Technical Director at Engage Web
Darren is Technical Director at Engage Web, as well as being a co-founder of the company. He takes a hands-on approach to SEO and web design, helped by more than 20 years’ experience in these fields.
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