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Sunday, 24 October 2010

A Top Performer? Yes, and a Terrorist!

How many times have we heard the story of a top performer in the business in sales or operations, finance or technical, et al, who is consistently successful - and hates everyone and everyone hates him/her?

If we consider the quadrant matrix so beloved of consultants and plot performance vertically and attitude horizontally, it will give an idea of how performance and attitude interact.

For example, if someone in the business is in the bottom left quadrant and is perceived as having poor performance and a bad attitude perhaps you should be asking the question - why are we still employing them?

Conversely, if someone's results show up in the top right quadrant, that is, high performance and great attitude, perhaps we should be considering what we need to do to ensure that they stay with the business.   As Lee Thayer, noted Vistage speaker and author says: "We need to protect and nurture the virtuosi and make sure that they continue to thrive and contribute to the business".  Ask youself another question; what are we doing to encourage them to stay and to grow with the business?

In that exceptional book on management, Good to Great, the authors make the point that we need to get the right people on the bus and if you have a virtuoso, that is the right person.

Now consider the person who finishes in the bottom right quadrant.  This is an individual who has good attitude but low performance and it is worth while then making an effort to help them to improve their performance possibly to move into the top right quadrant.

The real problem is that individual whom you assess as having great performance and bad attitude.   It is a perennial issue and causes the leader no end of anguish.
"How can we get rid of him?" I hear you say. "He is our top salesman/technical expert/financial expert etc. etc."

Perhaps so, but their bad attitude and their inability to relate to others in the business is even more important.   We try to change these people, fearful that their loss would impinge negatively on the success of the business and we plough on, hoping and against hope, that they will change.  Of course, they don't.

Another Vistage speaker, Ed Ryan, says: "We hire on skills and fire on attitude" which is a very enlightening statement.  The answer, of course, is to interview in such a way as to uncover attitude and behaviour patterns and not to concentrate on experience and technical ability which should be a given.

So many times I have heard people say that after they terminated a terrorist, other members of the team asked why it had taken them so long.

A team should ideally consist of dedicated virtuosi, working together, knowing how they are doing and where they are going, and driving for success as a team.  The odd individual who goes against that ethos is corrosive and has no place in the scheme of things.

Ed Ryan also asks: "Why does it take us eighteen months to get rid of someone we interviewed for an hour?".  Now there's a question.

For further information visit www.vistage.co.uk
To contact us, email to ivan.goldberg@vistage.co.uk

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