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Sunday, 31 May 2015

Do You Know the Prima Donnas in Your Business? Look After Them, They’re Gold Dust!

I recently wrote about the "terrorist" who produces great performance but with a bad attitude. 

Looking back it covered a difficult situation for most leaders and in many ways it was a negative problem that can usually only be solved by metaphorical surgery. 

Far better it is  to consider the positive aspects of performance and attitude because with care a group of people in a business can be encouraged to do more and greater things. It’s called engagement.

There are two groups to look at, namely those with indifferent performance but a good attitude and the top performers who also have great attitude.  

I recently attended the Manchester Vistage Open Day which featured a wonderful and inspiring session by Mark Robb on Service Excellence. 

Mark mentioned among many other gems that research had  found that the most significant feature of a leader as seen by followers is the ability to show concern for others. 

This doesn't imply that the leader needs to be all warm and cuddly but rather is able to relate to an individual to demonstrate a real interest in them and in their development. 

The first group of employees listed above are the ones who will benefit the most and probably show the highest level of improvement. 

If a leader accepts that attitude is all important then by showing concern, using coaching and mentoring methods to help people achieve their potential can show great dividends. 

In the end we really would like to have everyone in the high performer/great attitude box.  The ultimate objective of any leader is to have the best possible people around and then get out of their way to let them perform and to learn from them. 

Naturally reality kicks in at some point but certainly by showing concern the likelihood is that there will be at least an acceptable level of improvement overall. 

So now what about the people in the top right box designated the Prima  Donnas?

The phrase can imply a high level of self-regard and demands emanating from it. In this case, however, the description really means "first among equals". 

Looking back I realise that I have met and worked with several of this ilk and have leaned a great deal from them. 

Perhaps the most significant for me was my old sales mentor, Phil Copp, the sage of Wythenshawe, who was the best sales  operator I have ever met. 

Phil was definitely a maverick, he knew what he could and should achieve and he liked to do it his way. 

To give "management" their due they kept out of his way, gave him his head and let him get on with it. 

The result was consistently high sales to very happy customers and, by the way, in a technically demanding industry. 

Phil showed that genuine concern for others that manifested itself in his taking on the mentoring role at which he was exceptional. 

I well recall the time that we went into a large engineering company because a new buyer had flexed his muscles and found another cheaper supplier. 

Phil with me meekly following behind went round the drawing office collecting all our company catalogues from the draughts men and passing them to me to carry. 

When complaints started that they used the catalogue every day and needed them all the time, Phil said: "sorry lads, your new buyer has a found a cheaper supplier so you won't be wanting out catalogue any more"

It took about six weeks to reverse the buyer's decision and we were back in.

The question to ask yourself them, is do I know which of the people would benefit from coaching to bring them up to top performer status, and, more importantly, do I really know who are the Prima Donnas (and potentials) in the business?

Find out who they are, demonstrate your concern for them and their work then stand back and let them get on with it.  It could be the best decision you ever make. 

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