Some time ago I had a consultancy assignment with a company running a large door to door sales force and this involved discussions with virtually all 50 of the sales personnel.
It soon became evident that the sales force could be roughly divided into three main sections; high performers (15%), medium performers (70%) and indifferent or poor performers (15%)
The analysis was carried out based on both turnover and the rate of improvement in building their contacts.
It became even more evident that there was an enormous difference in the performance of the top and bottom teams so we initiated some interviews to see if we could isolate the reasons.
In the end, not really to my surprise, it all came down to drive, passion, enthusiasm, dedication, commitment and an overwhelming desire for success or, sadly, the lack of all those desirables.
A learned business speaker once said that the leader should put more effort into working with and encouraging the top performers rather than taking a vast amount of time in trying to improve the poor performers. It does make sense because probably the best that one can achieve is to move them from poor to mediocre and even that with a great deal of effort.
In the end, we need to accept that we can’t change other people. The best that we can achieve is to create an environment in which people can change if they so desire. The worst of all worlds is to accept poor performance and then tip toe round the problem while making excuses for not biting the bullet.
It all comes down to the strictures of people like Lee Thayer, Ed Ryan, Jim Collins and many other leadership sages who have been saying for years that we need virtuosi, top people the best that we can find rather than trying to improve poor or even mediocre performers. We should, in short, recruit people who are manifestly better than we are.
Not at all easy, and it starts with the recruitment process. I have said it before and I guess that I will say it again, that we need to recruit on attitude not skills. Only by doing that all the time will we build businesses that are both successful and sustainable.
It is your top people who will take you there. Look after them and make sure that it is you that they take there, not someone else.
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