Most people believe that there is an 80-20 rule for performance within an organization. The 80-20 rule states that 20 percent of an organization drives most of the value and impact, while 80 percent of the organization doesn’t make a significant contribution, causing a drag on performance. This displays the need for transforming performers into stars within organizations.
Working with these performers into stars characters, in a variety of organizations and discovering how they think and act has given us unique insight into what makes mediocre performers less effective.
We know that star performers are purpose-driven and work very hard to develop comprehensive, holistic mastery of their functions. Across the board, we have found that star performers’ wisdom is organized into categories:
A clear purpose
Foundational knowledge, or the basics of the job
Broader organizational leadership skills
We have organized this wisdom into “Big Steps.” The Big Steps are the steps needed to learn the attitudes, knowledge, skills and ultimately wisdom to become great at a job. They are broken into sequential groupings of increasingly sophisticated knowledge that direct attention—the key to learning—to more focused areas.
In working with star performers, we discovered that the mediocre performers are consistently weak in one or two areas:
They lack a clear definition of their purpose, and/or
They are weak in one of the Big Steps and therefore are missing the attitudes and knowledge needed to succeed
By taking the time to make sure that people understand their purpose and have strong foundational knowledge, you can make almost everyone into a top performer.
Notice that we said “almost everyone.” This approach doesn’t work for about two to five percent of a population. Why?
Some people don’t understand or align with the organization’s purpose. In essence, they don’t share the organization’s core values needed for success. Often these mediocre performers will opt out, saying things like, “Now that I know what is expected of me, I don’t really want to do it.”
Those that don’t opt out are in the wrong job. They may be terminated, and the organization will be better for that result—leaner and better aligned.
But when mediocre performers embrace the greater purpose and are willing to learn the knowledge, attitudes and skills needed to succeed, they are able to join the ranks of the 20 percent and become stars.
For more business insights and strategies, sign up for our free management newsletter, Moving Ahead.
Take your career to the next level with AMA seminars
William Seidman is the CEO of Cerebyte, Inc., a company focusing on creating high performing organizational cultures. He has worked as a manager or consultant with many large and small organizations including Hewlett-Packard, Jack in the Box, Intel, Tektronix, CVS Pharmacies, and Sears. As a recognized thought leader and expert on leadership in high-performing organizations, he contributes an in-depth understanding of the processes required to discover and use expert wisdom to create extraordinary organizational performance.
Dr. Seidman earned his doctorate at Stanford University. He is co-founder and chief executive officer of Cerebyte, Inc., co-author of Strategy to Action in Ten Days and co-author (with Rick Grbavac) of The Star Factor, published by AMACOM in the Fall of 2013. The Star Factor presents Affirmative Leadership, a methodology for discovering what your top performers do differently - and inspiring a new level of greatness in all.
Dr. Seidman lives in Lake Oswego, Oregon with his wife. He enjoys traveling, golf and spending time with his three kids.
As part of your leadership development toolbox, rotational assignments can go a long way in strengthening your frontline leadership muscle and succession planning strategies, says HR expert and author Paul Falcone.