Which 20% Are You Looking at?


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As a trainer, I am often asked if you should focus on your top performers or your bottom ones to improve business. Many ask how much time should be spent on either group. I will lay out the arguments for both and then give my answer with an extra tip for success.

The Bottom 20%:

Here are the groups who are not delivering results. This is a group that you would think to focus on because bringing them up in terms of performance will make an impact immediately. Or will it?

This group contains usually contains three types of performers.

1.Newer employees

2.Previously good performers who have slipped

3.Those who cannot perform the job

Group # 3 needs to be either moved to a different job that matches their skill set or they need to be let go. I feel that if you have trained properly following a solid coaching process, then spending too much time hoping they will improve will waste resources from your team.

Group #1 needs time. Make sure training continues in an orderly fashion and expectations are clearly set out. You should be seeing progress or else they may slip into Group #3.

Group #2 is an interesting group. You need to sit with these members and find out what is going on. If they performed previously, what has changed? Are you working on a new project that may not suit them? Are you requiring a new process to be followed and they are in an adjustment period? Or is it something where they have just lost the passion to do the job?

In either case, keeping those from Group #2 who have lost their passion will spread unrest amongst the rest of your team. It will look like you are setting different rules for each group. I am all for giving time to those who have given to you, but be honest with them and set them back on track or else as a favor to all, you need to part ways.

The Top 20%

These are you best performers. They may not follow your processes step by step but they find a way to get things done. I think that this is the group you need to cultivate. I believe it is easier to get this group to increase their performance than the bottom 20%. This group understands competition and goals.

Getting them to increase their performance by 10% has a bigger impact than getting the bottom 20% to increase by 10% or even 20%.

Your time has more of an impact on these “racehorses.” I think half of your time should be spent with top performers. Ask them questions on what is working and what is not. Ask them for feedback on how they close deals or perform their best. Take this feedback and look for things you can teach the rest of the team which then can help performance.

One thing I do not recommend is having these top performers do the training. My reasoning is that many of them are not able to communicate clearly what they do in order to be successful. Certain aspects of the job come easy to them and they may not understand why others cannot accomplish things as easily as they do.

Remember that keeping your top people engaged is one of the most important aspects of a successful company.

Now my extra tip:

Design your processes in such a specific manner that the middle 60% can improve incrementally. If you have a good amount of training and focus on the middle group and move the whole up by a few percentage points, you succeed. For the top performers, set them up and get out of their way. Give them guidance, but let them do their job.

For the lower 20%, as we said, I would spend no more that 15% of my time there. That means a third of my time will be spent with the middle 60%, finding that next top performer and keeping the rest from falling into the bottom group.

Looking at where you are spending your time as a leader and making sure it is spent with the right people can impact your company’s performance in a much more effective way.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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