“Retaining the “best” part 4 – They are high performers, now what?

Dec 08, 2013 (San Diego)

            As a supervisor or manager you now have a person working with you that consistently performs above goal level on many assigned tasks. Wow, what a blessing. What should I do to help maintain that awesome performance: get out of their way, take them to lunch, give them all the important tasks that are not getting done by others, say a prayer of thanksgiving…..what?

            My suggestions from a “few days” working with high performers:

  1. From time to time let them know you appreciate their contribution
  2. From time to time that appreciation needs to be tangible or we can appear to be all talk
  3. Learn enough about their aspirations so that as opportunity comes along they can be offered interesting and relevant new challenges. So many high performers “leave” because they become bored.
  4. Do what can be done to demonstrate that you genuinely trust them and their judgment. Go out of your way to do this. On a routine basis you do it all the time and it can appear to be “no big deal.”
  5. Offer them opportunity to mentor or sponsor new learners.

High performers are very important players in your organizations. Devote key amounts of time to insure that their “needs” are being met.

“Retaining the “best” part 3 – job engagement

Nov 17, 2013 (San Diego)  “Retaining the “best” part 3 – job engagement

            Here then is the irony of retaining the best.

  • They are already in your company
  • They already know what to do to start the improvement processOrange Man Detective with Magnifying Glass
  • They have the ability to do significantly better

                Those 85% are just waiting for the encouragement

The “best” already are at work in most organizations. “They are just waiting for encouragement or they are doing “good enough” because that appears to be all that is required of them.

How to break the “homeostasis”? Ask pertinent questions about how things could be done better, faster, different, more economically in cost or time, or more economically asking questionsin benefit output. From their perspective in the company, they know exactly what needs to be done. Most organizations do not have a process to draw that knowledge from the workers and put it into action.

My experience is that managers know how to do the “draw” and “put into action.” Their challenge is getting enough away from the day to day drama, get ahead of the power curve to put a few ideas into action. As they start putting the “right” ideas into action they will begin to make time for themselves to put more ideas into action. This will eventually get them beyond the constraints of the power curve and into unprecedented results. If only………

“Retaining the “best” part 2

Nov 3, 2013 (San Diego

            I closed my 26 Oct blog, below, with this paragraph:

Then there are those few, 15% or so by my count, who are able to work above and beyond goal level performance. They adjusted to all reorganizations and task modifications as if nothing at all happened. They were wonderful to have. Anytime there was a crash project, of which there were always more than a few, the “go to” person was one that can do the regular job better than goal level. They always had that little bit extra time, focus, and energy to overcome the current crisis.

I wrote about “those 15%”. The 15%, by my count, are the employees who perform above goal level work on their own initiative. The good news is that most of the other employee’s, maybe 90% of the remaining 85% can be developed to work above goal level performance, but they do need help.

They may have taken chances at other times and were crushed or they are just not so sure of themselves and so they hold back from peak performance. If their manager will just provide some encouragement and reassurance they will thrive. All too often managers that I work with wonder why they should put in that extra effort. Or even if they see the pay-off they are way too busy on the things they need to do, to spend time developing those who are performing “good enough.” Besides there are still “those few” who can step up and do not need any energy from the manager. So we end out with this dynamic homeostasis that can meet the status quo but does not get significantly better.

Good enough, that is another word for mediocre, ½ way up the stony mountain. Yes to move this 85% into the high performance zone will require time from the manager. That is a business decision. Though it is a top down business decision, the frontline already knows what things could be done to improve performance results. But, they have learned to keep quiet and just do their work. Their thoughts and ideas are not highly valued.

Here then is the irony of retaining the best.

  • They are already in your company
  • They already know what to do to start the improvement process
  • They have the ability to do significantly better
  • Those 85% are just waiting for the encouragement

“Retaining the ‘best’ “

Oct 26, 2013 (San Diego)

            What I am going to write concerning ‘retaining the best’ will be difficult for many organizations to deal with for reasons I will disclose in this writing. Next week I will write on what to do to keep ‘the best’ even when the difficult issues are alive and well.

Since about 1997 I have been intrigued with high performing companies, people, and analysis of the same. I have also had the honor of applying some of what I am writing about. To the degree I was allowed to keep the conversation moving forward, the potentialapplications worked. Organizations moved measurably towards high performance.

My experience with numerous companies around the world in all industries was that for the most part there is little to no staff development. The staff were hired based on their resumes which touted them as being near immortals. There was some orientation to the company. Some basic job descriptions and most objectives discussed. From that discussion onward the company expected the staff to use the touted resume strengths will little to no assistance. After all the staff were hired because they had experience with the task at hand: “use that experience and get on with it.”

Any one who has been in this position, which is probably most of us, realizes that application of a skill in a new setting is more complex than pouring steak sauce. One cannot just “unscrew” the cap of the skill set and pour it out in the organization. There are policies – procedures, formal and informal to digest. There are power networks helping and hindering progress to navigate. There are informal networks to be built to help get “real” work done in the organization.  Of course there was “how things are done here” syndrome to recon with.

Some people never figure it out or they really upset someone that began the hindering process. In this situation the new staff member never gets off the ground.  They either quit and “go” or they quit and “stay” (ostensibly still working to “figure it out”)

The people who get beyond “figuring it out” go on to goal level performance (minimum acceptable performance). With ongoing reorganizations, job expansion, task modifications, staying at goal level performance was a full time job. The semi-annual performance review was a reminder of how “on the edge” they were, but that for the most part they were doing well. If any development happened at these reviews it was all boot straps: do it for yourself.

Then there are those few, 15% or so by my count, who are able to work above and beyond goal level performance. They adjusted to all reorganizations and task modifications as if nothing at all happened. They were wonderful to have. Anytime there was a crash project, of which there were always more than a few, the “go to” person was one that can do the regular job better than goal level. They always had that little bit extra time, focus, and energy to overcome the current crisis.

What was more interesting to me, was that leaders love to have the high performers in their organization, but they did little to develop them. Those 15% got themselves to the stage of better than goal level performance on their own initiative.

Here is the angst of it all. The best performers got to that level all on their own. For the most part then managers were clueless on what magic got them there and were equally clueless on what they might to do keep retain them at that level of performance or we need youin the organization at all. Oh the turmoil that was created when one of these high performers let the organization know they were leaving. All stops were pulled to concoct a plan for retention. Now there was concern but often it was too late. They had been burned, burned out, and used up with little to no regard for their contribution.

What to do? What does your organization do to retain its “best?”

Orange Man Detective with Magnifying Glass

“Potential Released”

Aug 23, 2013 (Manama)

            Just had the honor of conducting a 5 day effective presentation program to 24 brand new young executives. The program went as planned with skill building to a crescendo of excellence on the 5th day. I was re-inspired to overcome the strongholds of mediocrity and transform others to their own excellence. Their closing comments were inspiring and concerning.

Many of the participants in one manner or another said, “I have found my voice.” The clear meaning being, I had learned to be reserved and timid now I have the “voice” to speak my mind. Helping others find their strength is inspiring. Wow, so much bottled up potential needed to be expressed for the good of all. I can only imagine how much potential sits on the “side lines” of organizations ready to be called upon, but never are.

The concerning part of the participant comments is how much society and others had taught them to withhold their voice. The 24 are a 5 month cohort learning group who had been together for 1.5 months before this 5 day class. They told me that until this class they did not really know each other and had barely exchanged words other than morning greetings. In this class they learned to know each other; to help each other; to care about each other. They cried together, cheered together, had lunch together, even had 3 celebrations over the week together. They even discovered their voices with each other.

What are we missing out on with so many people having learned to say nothing and in “the conversation” be nothing.

I am honored to be part of reinventing a few people as I go through life.

Help others be all they can be and you will become all you can be.man up

we need you         Reach out a helping hand to someone today. There is no shortage of need.

“Maximizing or Marginalizing the work force”

July 4, 2013 (San Diego)

            Maximizing the work force must be a conscious ongoing effort, while marginalizing or demeaning the workforce can be nearly unconscious.

The mayor of a nearby town was just caught in a potential graft situation involving $100,000. It seems that once the situation became known the mayor in note, returned the money, but blamed a staff member for the situation.  Federal investigators will determine the truth of the matter. I am sure this mayor did not plan the demise of his administration, but events like this will do a person in. All the other staff can see how this mayor reacts if things are going wrong. A smart staff member will leave, but not all can. So what is a person to do? Play it real safe, do not do anything even remotely in the “gray” and if you do, be sure that you leave no path back to yourself.  By playing everything ultra-safe one can be sure that a lot of energy is being expended worrying about being sure there can be no consequence traced back to them. When energy is being used like this, it is not being used to move the administration forward, and doing daring things for the good of all.

How many times have we been reminded in leadership forums: share the praise – take the heat. This is not just a nice platitude but part of a formula for helping employees see: 1.) their efforts are recognized, 2.) management has their back. Good since management has my back I do not need to run around all day worrying about it. The employees can spend their discretionary time looking for ways to help the organization and gain more recognition.


March 23, 2013 (San DiegoIt’s a simple reality that a company is only as good as those who work for it. Large or small, whether a company is a stellar performer, average performer, or below results come from the fruit of the labor of its employees. The situation: your company’s output is constrained by the average “fruit of the labor.”

mountainYour company’s operating effectiveness: how far up the mountain are the results, is constrained by its least effective units. If accounts receivable is your least effective unit, then your company’s available cash flow, short of borrowing, is totally constrained by their level of effectiveness. Look around: “where you’re being held back?”

Constraining performance isn’t confined to unit level work alone. Look around at each employee within each unit and determining if they’re working at their maximum ability.  Remember when you interviewed each potential new hire. You likely listed the critical needs for a position and hired the person who had best demonstrated the unique abilities (UAs) to meet those needs. The job of management is to ensure that the unique abilities of the new hire are fully matched to the company’s needs. Subsequently insuring the match is ripening in due time.     

How is this aligning/ripening working for you?     Stronger

Where is the net fruit of the labor showing up on your mountain?

Data shows that 3 in 8 about 35% are not even using their UA’s at goal level or let alone above.

About 16% are using their UA’s above goal level.

(Data from hundreds of managers in a workshop or personal mentoring scenarios)

 An illustration of impact:Picture a freeway full of cars. Amongst those cars are sprinkled a few Formula One F-1 race cars. F-1s have the capacity to blow away an average vehicle not only in a straight line, but on corners with an unprecedented amount of speed and quickness. F-1s can beat all comers because they have amazing “UAs.”

Now, picture F-1on a freeway– in rush hour.

Does it matter how fast the F-1can go?     rush hour

Does it matter how quick its response time is?

Does it matter if it can zip around corners better than any other?

Do any of these UAs count in this scenario?


                The F-1 needs conditions set up so that its UAs can be manifested.It is management’s job to set up those conditions so the F-1 can perform.


Every employee is hired for their UAs that could be used for organization performance. Like our F-1 on the freeway at rush hour that capacity is often squelched. As previously noted in at least 7 in 8 people and the “fruit of their labor” is marginalized.

Now, think about your employees.

  1. What are their UAs?
  2. Are those abilities producing anywhere near capacity?
  3. Consider whether they’re running wide open at maximum efficiency, or whether they are stuck in the rush hour traffic?
  4. How long has this condition been in place?
  5. What is it costing?

On the other side of the picture from the F1 in rush hour is that F-1’s run best together. Mixing F-1 performance with any other performance will be the beginning of strife in the organization, due to overall frustration.

How to Identify actual F-1 performance in your Employees: You don’t have to explain things to them twice.

They see problems fix them and give you an update

They come up with innovations to improve company performance.

They look for ways to be challenged.

They’re engaged on all cylinders at all times.

They do what needs to be done without supervision or direction.

They get the job done ….. and more.

Identifying Potential F-1 performance in your Employees: Truth? All employees have UAs and the potential to use them at the F-1 level. What are some indicators that they are on the cusp of breaking out into magnificence?

They are just like the actual F-1’s, except they need encouragement to jump to the task.

They may be a bit stressed wanting to press the accelerator but lacking permission or resources

They ask “Boss, is this a good idea?” They need some assurances. Their ideas are great, but they just are not ready to step into the fast lane.

Once a bit of encouragement/assurance is given, then they’re off like an F-1.

Think about what your company would be like if at least 50% of the critical tasks in your company were being done at a F-1 performance level. Imagine the speed, the maneuverability, the quickness and increased performance.

What would be the result?

An example from the speedway: A manager of a medical device company was certain that he was dealing with a “Potential F-1” in a specific situation. He worried about providing the requisite encouragement and assurance to gain optimal outcomes. The Potential F-1 was responsible for arranging all the details for a critical client meeting the next morning. As timing would have it, the manager had a family emergency and needed to the leave the preparations in the employee’s hands. No choice. Wow, was that manager pleasantly surprised when the “potential was really an “actual”. The preparations were done perfectly. The “F1” was allowed to run, and run she did.

Another aspect this scenario comes from the note above where I indicated that F1’s run best with other F1’s. Often the manager is the pace car running much slower than the F1’s. Sometimes the manager needs to get out of the way and let the winners win. Humm…..


Building a better tomorrow

March 17, 2013 (San Diego)

5 of the participants are moving their learning work forward. When application efforts are totally voluntary 5 is a good response. The beauty of it all is the 5 people see immediate impact on their perspective of the job and the people they are working from the vantage point of the learning. This immediately polishes or measurably improves outcomes and ease of progress.

Oh how I wish that “status quo” did not have such power after a learning session or that the possibility of improvement seems so chimerical as to draw limited effort no matter how much possibility was presented and discussed in the learning session.

Enterprise sits on the edge of abundant possibility which would be a benefit for all of mankind. The word I use is “mediocrity” which means “half way up mountainthe stony mountain. Yes we are ½ way up but only at near 35% of possibility. The real gain is on the 2nd half of the mountain which only comes from breaking out of the status quo, applying new learning diligently, and moving towards our personal full potential.



Great Customer Service

May 19, 2012 (Rouen, France)    Great caring customer service My wife and I along with my brother and his wife are on a holiday river cruise in France.                                            

Upon arrival my brother was admitted into a local hospital in Paris. The support service from the cruise ship began immediately. Within an hour of my brother’s arrival on the ship he was off to the hospital. You can imagine the dozens of things a cruise director needed to worry about concerning the arrival of 150 guests and here was a special circumstance to work with. (On river cruise ships there is no on board medical staff.) The cruise director arranged for a taxi and directed my brother to the appropriate hospital for a foreign visitor.

Since the problem was immediately diagnosed as something that would require at least one overnight stay the cruise director started to liaison with the hospital staff to insure all was understood by all parties. Most of the staff spoke only French and my brother spoke no French. There could be a lot lost in translation.

One night turned into 4 nights and the cruise ship needed to get underway. The hope was that my brother could be “repaired” and would join the ship along the route. My brother’s wife was not needed in the hospital where each day was one test, think about the results, and prepare for another test the next day. The cruise director kept all of us totally current on my brother’s condition including being able to talk with my brother to let him know that we knew. All this while the director was guiding the 150 through a wonderful cruise experience. The cruise director also kept one on one contact with the doctor in charge of my brother. Wow, awesome care of one person.

After 3 days in the hospital it was determined that the next day my brother could be released to join the cruise. The director stayed in touch with the doctor, the hospital, and the ship’s transportation support.

My brother was released, the director arranged for my brother to sit on a “sister ship” until the transportation support could move him to the cruise ship’s location. He joined the ship on the 4th day of the cruise.

The experience though tense was made doable by the service and concern diligence of the director.

What a wonderful service experience.

Reviving an nonprofit organization

May 11, 2012 (San Diego)

                                            Reviving an nonprofit organization

            I have been involved with Toastmasters for some time and a member of one local club for 3 years. Last October the club almost folded. I decided to give the club one more chance at being great.

  1. I talked with other current members to determine their interest. The interest was there but no energy to move things forward
  2. I told them I would be the President if (I asked specific others) so and so would take this role and another person take that role. They agreed to do this until June 2012 when we would reassess.
  3. In December 2011 the club was meeting again with 6 members when one of the 6 just said “no.” Way short of June 2012 but what happens / happens.
  4. We started putting up flyers everywhere and people started show up and join.
  5. We reached out to local group settings where others might be interested in Toastmasters.
  6. Last week we were up to 8 members and this week we will be at 11 members.
  7. We will finish the TM year on June 30th with 14 members and being a “Distinguished Club.”


  1. If someone will take the lead it is amazing what others are willing to do.
  2. If you get information out and about and the offering is viable people will come.
  3. Deliver on what you promise people will join and bring others.