Over the years, I’ve explored how many business leaders, in an attempt to improve their corporate culture, may be inadvertently setting an expectation of mediocrity and low performance. How does this happen?
How we enable low performers
We have a tendency to focus on the problem children.
As your elementary or high school teacher is well aware, it’s very easy to be distracted by the loud or problem children in class, while the high performers slip through unnoticed.
Low performers have a powerful impact on the rest of the organization.
Many business leaders overlook the power that low performers actually have and their impact on the rest of the organization. For example, in school, high performers have few options. They can’t leave so they simply quietly progress from grade to grade. Not so in the corporate world. High performers have options, and if they aren’t recognized they can leave. Possibly to your biggest competitor.
Low performers can pull your average achievers down.
While your goal in coaching and mentoring your low performers is to move them to higher levels of performance, you could actually be accomplishing the opposite. Your average performers (who likely are better candidates for coaching) may view the inequality of attention you’re spending with low performers as unfair, and actually reduce their efforts to achieve. Thus producing additional low performers.
So what should you do instead?
Here’s what leaders and managers can do:
Analyze your current employee mix.
Take some time to really evaluate your employees and categorize them as high, average or low performer. You may be surprised to find that typically 80% of employees tend to be average performers, with only 10% high performers and 10% low performers.
Because low performers stand out due to their problem behaviour, they seem to take up a larger percentage of your organization. While you focus your attention on moving such a low percentage of employees from low to average performance, you may be inadvertently lowering the perception of corporate expectation.
Define excellence in the workplace, set this expectation organization-wide.
Instead of rewarding problem employees, focus your time and attention on rewarding, mentoring and recognizing your high performers. At the same time, focus on developing your average performers and moving them toward the high performance category.
Purge your low performers.
The truth is sometimes difficult, but the fact is that when you define and set an expectation of excellence in an organization, there is no more room left for low performers. Every employee is expected to be fully engaged, focused, and inspired by a higher purpose. In these environments, low performers either embrace the new culture of excellence and improve their performance, choose to leave on their own or are phased out by review and termination processes.
Contact us to learn more.