20 January 2023

tl;dr Many companies look to hire individuals who are both leader and individual contributor (IC) on the same team. These are often referred to as "Player/Coach" kinds of roles, and people in these roles often find a distinct lack of success over time.

The problem is that this role sets people up for failure:

You cannot have two Priority-One goals at the same time. If you are there to be an individual contributor, management tasks distract you from your purpose; likewise, if you are there to be a manager, IC tasks distract you. No role is ever 100% one and not the other, but there should never be ambiguity as to which is your primary focus.

Now, having said all this, it's still a common scenario for hiring managers to want to hire a "Player/Coach", particularly in the early stages of a team's formation. The idea, simply put, is that until the team is built, the Player/Coach will need to be "hands on" until the team's construction is complete and the Player/Coach can move to full-time coaching.

If that's the case (and this is speaking from having done this three or four times now), then here's the way to do it, assuming that no team actually exists at the time of the Player/Coach's hire:

I've done this several times now, and if I were to do it again, I would consider any of these to be "red flags":

It's tempting to look at the idea of the Player/Coach and believe that it's manageable, particularly in the early days of a team's formation, and conclude "We can make it work." I agree, but only when there's a clear transition plan in place (ideally enforced by paperwork, so the plan can't go awry when the situation changes even slightly). Anything else is likely to lead to a boulevard of broken dreams.

Tags: management  

Last modified 20 January 2023