In every organization there are three types of performers: low, medium and high. Obviously, as leaders, we naturally want more high performers than low or even medium.
It’s our responsibility to help our team members move up the performance scale. This is good for them and for the organization.
- Low: These performers barely meet job expectations and produce significantly less than average team members. They bring down the productivity of an entire team. While it’s rare that these individuals would become high performers, it is essential to move them to medium or help them find a better fit.
- Medium: These performers are considered average. Some will become high performers and others won’t. As leaders, it’s our job to coach them to the next level.
- High: These individuals are not just a little better. They typically perform significantly higher than average performers. They consistently accomplish goals and seek out more. They take initiative and tend to be more relentless on quality. Retention is our focus for these individuals.
We often spend a lot of time with low performers. However, the best time spent is in the middle, moving those individuals toward high performance. So, how do you do it? Here are four steps:
Identify specific areas for improvement.What is preventing this individual from being more successful? Clearly put your finger on the gap and then communicate it in a direct, respectful manner. High performers often know where their deficiencies are, where as medium and low performers often are less aware. They all benefit from receiving feedback that’s focused on helping them grow.
Coach them on next step opportunities.What action can the individual take to improve in a specific area? When leaders consistently meet with their team members one-on-one, these conversations can happen naturally and over time. This gives leaders an opportunity to share relevant and recent examples of areas to improve and strategies to execute on. It’s also important that accolades be part of the equation to recognize progress and successes. Effective coaching doesn’t happen in one meeting. It is a discipline that achieves results over time.
Show them what good looks like.Don’t just tell, when you can show. I often encourage team members to shadow a higher performer and identify the attributes that make this person so successful. This takes the coaching conversations to the next level. Good leaders can personally set an example of what good looks like.
Establish mentors.Coaching should not just come from you. Personal development is a team sport. Mentoring opportunities are all around us, and they don’t have to be formal. The key is to encourage the person to engage the right potential mentor to gain the best outcomes. As a reminder, the mentor does not have to be high up the food chain – it can be lateral or even down a level.
Keep in mind that not everyone will become a high performer and that’s OK. They just can’t all be medium. If all your team members are average, you’ll be an average organization. Having just one or two high performers doesn’t make a winning team either.
The best teams have a strong balance of high performers, medium performers and mitigate low performers. Take the time to invest and be the coach your team needs.