Genevieve Paquette | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Genevieve Paquette

Background:  

Founded in Chicago in 2015, Level Ex is a medical technology company creating professional video games for physicians. The company’s mobile app and virtual reality and augmented reality experiences present scenarios to diagnose and perform procedures on life-like virtual patients to advance decision-making skills with real patients. Level Ex recently received $11 million in Series A funding, which will be used to expand its suite of mobile apps and VR and AR experiences, as well as to help with the opening of its new Boston office. 

The Mistake:

Not knowing when someone hasn’t worked out for a role, and recognizing when you need to fire them.

I became a manager at a pretty early age—I was 21 when I managed my first employee at an advertising agency in New York. You learn a lot about how to hire someone and train them, but I had to learn along the way how to recognize when someone isn’t a good fit.

When I was running a marketing department at one of my previous companies, I had hired for a senior role in digital marketing. It took six months to go through the search to find this person. After about three to four weeks I started to see that this person embellished on their technical abilities, and was struggling to deliver on projects. I made excuses, like the work we were assigning to them was out of their scope.

At first I was surprised because it’s such a senior role. I thought,  "Let me pivot a bit, you’ve got other skills, let me see if I can give you other types of projects," but they continued not to deliver on the other projects. Because it was such a long search, I was trying to figure out how this person could fit, when it probably would have been in our best interest to cut and run after project two.

In managing a very large team, someone who isn’t working out has a ripple effect across the organization. My big mistake was keeping them on too long where they impacted the goals of the team. When someone embellishes it creates constraints between team members as well, and it started to create a negative dynamic with this person's peers on the team. By not really carrying through with their role, this person actually hurt us with missing a shared team goal. Ultimately that reflected on me as the supervisor and hiring manager, and eroded a little bit of trust with the team. That brought up questions about my ability to see how people fit within the team. 

Someone who isn’t working out has a ripple effect across the organization. 

The Lesson:

Trust your intuition. When you’re seeing behaviors or patterns, you don’t need to repeat a pattern a dozen times to solidify or make a judgment call. If you’re seeing a negative behavior or trend, or a project dropped, a few times is almost enough.

You get a vibe when people aren’t working out on your team. When you feel like you’re overextending yourself to accommodate that person outside of the normal course of business, that’s always a red flag.

We’re having that issue now. As a startup that’s growing very quickly, and now growing in the Boston area, we have to quickly find talent that’s a culture fit and a professional fit. In a larger company you do have the luxury of taking a couple months to help with re-training someone in a role, but not in a startup when you’re running a really lean team.

My experience in growing the business side of Level Ex is figuring out how to recognize the kind of people we want on the team and fit that. If we see someone and it’s not working out, or it’s not a fit, we have that tough conversation to try to transition them out of the organization, so it helps them move on and helps us find the right person.

Follow Genevieve Paquette on Twitter at @genpaqtalking.

Photo courtesy of Level Ex.