Last month we looked at how much time managers should devote to poor performers and concluded that you can't simply rely on superficial judgments and rules to dictate any plan of action. The topic got me thinking about the other extreme amongst personnel in organizations, the top performers, and what managers must understand when working with them.

Throughout our 40 plus years of experience working in organizations, we've observed far too many managers and leaders who only recognize top performers. In fact, it's one of the "fatal errors" that we warn managers to be alert to in our management training program. Why can this be such a costly error? The hardest workers in most companies are usually not the top performers. (For the most part, top performers do so well because the work comes easy to them!) Instead, the hardest workers in a company are often in a middle group of employees, wedged between the top performers and poor performers who, for different reasons, tend to receive the lion's share of a manager's attention.

Within this 'middle group', you may have the person who just started or the person who is trying hard to produce but isn't or the person for whom it's a daily challenge to develop the habits necessary for success. These people want to achieve and they deserve recognition also. It's a vital leadership input to sustaining their effort, without which there's no way they can ever attain success.

What sort of recognition should these employees receive? It doesn't need to be anything extravagant. Sure, your employees would love a bonus or some extra time off, but they'll appreciate something as simple as a handwritten note, something that lets them know that you appreciate the hard work they're putting in.

What are you doing at the moment to show appreciation to your people? Are you only recognizing the top performers? Be sure to recognize this 'middle group', because depending on how they perceive your attention to the effort they're putting in, they can have a big impact on the organization's success.

Posted: 5/17/2011 6:31:02 PM by Andy Klein | with 0 comments
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At Fortune, we define leadership as the skill of attaining predetermined objectives with and through the voluntary cooperation and effort of other people. We could dissect this definition all day, but for now we'll focus on the last part: How can a leader achieve voluntary cooperation and effort from their people? Or in other words, how can they influence them to act as they'd like?

To answer this question, leaders must understand the two factors that people consider before taking any action: the present situation and the perception of the future. If people believe that the future will be better than the present, they'll act. If not, they'll do nothing. This is true for any walk of life, in business or personal.

To influence people to act, leaders are usually confronted by two options: They can attack the present or sell a better future.

Attacking people's present position and approach may look like it increases the relative value of the future. It's easy... but it's also fleeting, like treating the symptom to a cold instead of the cause. By attacking what people have done up to that point, you're also attacking their intelligence, their confidence, their professional skills and their abilities. Have no doubt: People will resist this very quickly.

Selling a better future, on the other hand, is an effective way of getting people to act. Sell them (ie, communicate!) the company's vision – make the dream a tangible reality in their mind – and the fulfillment that this can bring to themselves. By doing so, leaders will get that voluntary cooperation and effort and maintain long-lasting productivity.

Posted: 4/12/2011 6:23:45 PM by Andy Klein | with 0 comments
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Development Dimensions International (DDI) has released a new study, Finding the First Rung, that paints a very sobering picture of how businesses today are developing their leaders. The main takeaway? They're not developing their people at all: prior to the promotion, at the time of promotion or after promotion.

Newly promoted leaders aren't helping either, as they're generally accepting promotions for the wrong reasons: Half say they took the role because of the increase in compensation and only 23% say it was because they actually wanted to lead others.

Perhaps of most concern to us, although not surprising, is that more than half of people learned without any management support through trial and error. So it should come as no surprise that the few who did receive that support were twice as likely to want to continue in their position.

We hope that none of you are in such a position. But if you are, send us an inquiry and let's talk.

Posted: 3/21/2011 6:06:47 PM by Andy Klein | with 0 comments
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