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7 May, 2015

The Secret Source For Improving Your Team’s Performance

Here’s the issue:

Traditional people management involves communicating expectations — spelling out, in no uncertain terms, the results required and tasks to be undertaken to achieve them. It homes in on regular reviews, managing non-performance and rewarding results through incentives.

The difficulty with this approach of management by results is that it only motivates high performers — they know what they need to do and can consistently apply the critical work behaviours that enable them to achieve. This isn’t true of lower performers.

Drawn to the middle

To maximise the performance of your lower performers, those with the greatest potential to improve, they must be managed differently to your high performers. This is because, to create the desired results, the necessary degree of application of critical work behaviours is missing.

Consider a bell-shaped curve. In larger organisations the performance distribution of both individual employees and teams approximates this curve.

To the right of the curve you have a relatively small group of high performers. The exact percentage will vary, but we can estimate that about 15% of frontline employees fall into this category. These people consistently achieve or exceed targets. Coaching observations show them using all the necessary work behaviours and techniques to be successful. You can manage these people on their results as they are consistently doing the right things to achieve them. The traditional people-management approach works perfectly to keep high performers motivated to maximise their performances.

To the left of the curve you have a relatively small group of low performers – again around 15%, give or take. These people rarely achieve their targets. Many of them are in the wrong job. Such people are disengaged, or detached, from their work and have a negative impact on organisational performance measures, such as return on assets. Your organisation’s performance-management system is designed to help you manage these people.

The vast majority of your people, however, fall into neither of these groups. Most of your people sit in the middle. They generally have been well recruited and possess the skills, knowledge and experience to perform. Imagine what you could achieve by lifting the performance of this middle group.

Untapped potential lies in the core

While high performers achieve much higher results individually, the middle 70% or so, which we call core performers, account for the majority of total performance. The impact of this is significant. For example, the Sales Executive Council found that a 5% shift in productivity of this core group in a sales force yields over 70% more revenue than a 5% shift in high-performer productivity. And lifting the performance of core performers is relatively easy as there is more room to improve.

The core of your workforce represents the best opportunity for boosting performance. If you could find a way to transform more of your core performers into high performers you would truly unleash your team’s full potential and create a significant increase in your overall results.

Taking the traditional people-management approach and attempting to manage these people on their results is simply ineffective. On the other hand, your performance-management system isn’t designed to help you manage these people more effectively either. In most organisations there’s something missing.

The key to unleashing the full potential of your core performers is to manage their day-to-day work behaviour. If you want the results of your people to change, then their work behaviour needs to change.

Results are supported by behaviour, which means that you can most effectively manage results by managing the work behaviour of your core performers.

The Secret Source

While organisations may not be able to significantly boost the performance of their high performers, their activities, competencies and behaviours hold the key to unlocking performance in their core performers — this is the secret sauce.

When I’m working with clients to improve performance, one of the questions I ask is, “What do high performers do, or do consistently, that core performers don’t?”

The identification of these activities and behaviours is the key to enabling your core performers to lift their game. By identifying, at a behavioural level, the differences between your core performers and high performers, you place yourself in an exceptionally strong position to manage these behaviours in your people. And when you start to manage these critical work behaviours in your core performers, you can start to move the middle and shift the entire performance curve.

Unfortunately, in my experience, few organisations have implemented the processes and techniques to enable their managers to do this. They are literally leaving money on the table by failing to maximise employee productivity, customer loyalty and profitability. This is why a leadership development program is so critical for any business.


To get our report “The Secret to Leadership Effectiveness”, which shows how YOU can help your organisation improve leadership quality, employee engagement, and financial success, click here.


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