Many years ago I was challenged on how I was spending my time with my direct reports. Where did I put my time in, with the 20% who were producing the most or the 80% that only produced 20%? Good question. Most managers spend most of their time with the problem employees, because, well, they are problems. And those who are the star performers don’t need any attention. They’re already kickin’it.
“What’s wrong with that?” you might ask. There are some pitfalls that go with spending 80% of your time with the 80% who are low producers:
- Your high performers start to feel neglected. The danger is that they may become low performers just to get attention.
- You could be missing out on hearing their great ideas to improve in your department, group or company.
- You get very tired at the end of each day, trying to push that rock uphill. Where is the reward in that?
Observe the way your people work
Over the years, I have made it a practice to really study people to see how they naturally move. I watched for what do they do well, where they struggled, and how they were rewarded. I also took stock of how my meetings with them went when discussing their performance. What I learned was that I could have ten different people selling and each person would do it differently. And each of them were successful, doing it their way.
For example, one person loved the challenge of selling every program we offered. He made it his personal goal to sell each program or service at least once. He loved not only the challenge of doing that but also the opportunity he had to learn about everything. That was no small feat. To this day, I believe he is the only one who has ever sold everything we have to offer.
Another sales person loved the opportunity to meet with new people and mentor them so they could be heroes in their own companies. As her clients grew and were promoted because of her work with them, she was totally fulfilled. When they moved on to other companies they always took her with them.
Another loved to create custom solutions for his clients. He never sold a brand product. His customers loved their company specific programs and these were hard to replace with a competitor’s product.
They were all successful. But I knew I couldn’t ask any of them to sell the way the others did.
Cookie cutter coaching just doesn’t cut it.
So I changed the way we discussed their performance to capitalize on those things that made them good at their job and figure out ways to tackle those things they didn’t do so well that still needed to be done. Our meetings became much more productive. They left feeling good about themselves, I felt good about the interaction and best of all, they continued to produce at a very high level.
This works for everyone. We all have a natural way of doing things. Some love challenges, others love to learn, others love being creative, while some like the camaraderie of their team. Some do their best work when they could interact with others, while some like working alone. Some will say, “give me a plan and I will make it happen.” The point is that each of us is unique in the way we move naturally to get things done. But sometimes, no matter what you do or they do, the job just isn’t getting done.
How do you know if someone is not the right person for that particular job?
Have you have answered these five questions for them:
- Do they know why they are supposed to be doing what they are asked to do?
Sharing your mission and vision with your employees helps them get on board. They know why they are doing what they should be.
- Do they know exactly what they are supposed to be doing?
If you are clear about goals, objectives, and requirements, they will know exactly what to do.
- Do they really know they aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing?
If you give them feedback, both positive and constructive, they will know when they are doing well and when they need to improve.
- Do they keep running into obstacles that prevent them from doing what they are supposed to be doing?
If you remove their obstacles, they will be able to move full steam ahead.
- Do they see what is in it for themselves to do what they are supposed to be doing?
If they understand their benefits for doing a job well, besides the paycheck, they will be more motivated.
If you have answered these five questions for them and they still aren’t performing , then they simply aren’t the right person for that particular job.
Answer these questions for your 80%, then get out of the way and and see what happens. Let them do their work using their natural talents.
If they are the right person, you will be amazed at how much more fulfilling your job can be. And, who knows, that 20% could be more like 70%.