In every job where I’ve been a leader – which is probably every job I have ever had – the best part and the worst part are always the same – the people. It’s a beautiful thing to work with a team that is mission-focused and motivated. It’s equally soul-sucking when working with someone who just doesn’t get it. 

In my coaching business I often work with leaders who are struggling with managing people, and their experiences along with my own have taught me a few lessons. Here are five things I’ve learned about managing people:

Just because an employee makes a good #2 does not necessarily mean they’ll make a good #1. It can be tempting to promote an assistant to a leadership role when their supervisor moves on. But just because someone is a good assistant doesn’t mean they have what it takes to lead a department. Save everyone the headache and heartache by assessing their skills and leadership potential before making a promotion decision. Further, once you do promote someone into a supervisory role, provide leadership and management training.

You can’t teach someone to be tall. There are certain skills that can be taught, such as how to use Excel or take inventory. But just like you can’t teach someone how to grow six inches, you can’t teach them to be responsible or committed. If someone doesn’t have the aptitude for leadership, no amount of training will make them a good leader.

You can not coach someone who is not in the room. When someone comes to you with a problem they’re having with an employee, it’s tempting to jump in and solve the problem for them. But the best way to help them is to ask them the right questions so they can discover their own role in the issue and how they can handle it moving forward.

You get what you create or what you allow (Henry Cloud, Boundaries for Leaders). As a leader, you set the tone for your organization. If you create a culture of accountability and high expectations, your employees will rise to the occasion. But if you allow mediocrity or poor behavior, that’s what you’ll get. As the leader, you are responsible for the result either way.

Hard decisions don’t get easier by waiting to make them. If you have an employee who is under-performing, understand that it is impacting everyone else in the organization. Give the employee a chance to improve, but be clear about your expectations and be prepared to take action if they don’t meet them. Waiting to take action when they have proven they are not ready to grow will exhaust you and frustrate the rest of your staff. Letting an employee go is the worst, and it will not be any better if you put it off.

Like the Peace Corps, leading people is “the toughest job you’ll ever love.” But it’s also the most rewarding. When you see your team working together towards a common goal, it’s an amazing feeling. And when you know that you’ve helped them reach their full potential, it’s a priceless experience.