Monthly Archives: March 2012
How to Turn Your Worst Employee Into a Top Asset
You can’t save your weakest staffers. But you can use them as an way to upgrade your whole team’s performance.
You’ve heard the adage, “Hire the right people, and everything else is easy.” That may be true, but it’s also unrealistic—especially in start-ups and rapidly growing, innovative businesses. Mistakes are made in hiring; high-potential peope fizzle out, burn out, or check out. Every owner eventually leads a workforce with mixed talent and ability.
And inevitably, one member of the workorce comes in dead last.
In that situation, the temptation is to fix the weak link. Under pressure from other team members who resent the poor performer, you start to squander time and energy in righteous indignation, remediation, and repair. It’s a dispositional world view—if only you could fix this one person, the organization would be better. I once took charge of an organization where a direct report actually told me, “Here we spend 90% of our time on the worst 10% of our performers.” If the worst are taking energy away from the best at your company, there is no way you are performing to capacity, and your leadership will be distracted and ineffectual.
How great leaders handle the problem
So what should you do? Great leaders reframe this issue, and start working on behalf of the team instead of fixing the “eaches”—a more situational world view.
Many years ago I saw this play out on a planning staff run by then-Lieutenant Colonel David Petraeus. It became clear that a few of us were substantially weaker than others. Petraeus had the power to fire and hire, but turnover creates its own set of challenges. Rather than spending his time trying to fix individuals, the future four-star drilled into team development using the weak performance as team indicators, rather than individual failings.
We became better—not in spite of the weakest performers, but because of them. Their performance focused us on organizational vulnerabilities and areas where we could make changes to strengthen our processes. Our team took responsibility for each other’s products, worked together, and all boats rose. We sometimes worked around those who needed help, touching up their work, making sure that the team didn’t fail. We were respectful of people trying their very best but falling a little short, and everyone learned to critique unemotionally. I loved working on that staff, and in just a few months with no personnel changes, we became very, very good.
Why the weak performer is a gift
The primary insight is that poor performance points to conditions in the organization that allow it to occur. What a gift that can be! In the long run, it’s usually more important for you to address those conditions than it is to fret over a single weak employee. Is there a flaw in the hiring process that, if fixed, could improve hiring across the organization? How can on-boarding be improved so that everyone’s potential is maximized? Are the right assessments and metrics in place to help predict problems before they take the organization down? Are other leaders in the right place at the right time? Is there sufficient coaching? Is there sufficient guidance provided so that people make the right decisions? The list goes on.
A single poor performer can capture a leader’s attention and energy like a drowning person taking a would-be rescuer to the bottom. Team rescues, on the other hand, always succeed.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s alone, and do not represent an official position of the US Military Academy, the Army, or the Department of Defense.
Col. Thomas A. Kolditz: Tom is the founder of Saxon Castle, a consultancy specializing in leader development. Since 2000, he has taught at West Point, where he was founding director of the Academy’s Leadership Ctr. @ThomasKolditz
How to Build a Mind Map
Mind mapping is the visual representation of the topics, thoughts and key points for a particular subject or study. Mind maps are “maps” because they help you remember the routes to different themes by way of visual “paths” or “roads”. You can aid your studies or revision by building a concise, detailed and easy-to-understand mind map.
- Blank paper (A4 size or larger)
- Pencil or pen
- Coloring pencils or highlighter pens
Take a piece of blank white paper and lay it down horizontally. Blank paper helps you create less clutter on the page and clears your memory when you come to remember the mind map later. A horizontal page will ensure you can visualize the whole page at once, making better use of the page’s empty space.
Write the title of your studied subject or theme in the center of the page, in big bold lettering. Add a cut-out image or a drawn picture to accompany your title. Big, bold lettering and a clear image aid your memory in associating the mind map with the subject.
Begin to make branches away from the center of the mind map to represent your key points. The branches should be evenly spaced away from each other; this makes the best use of the space and keeps the map readable, memorable and uncluttered.
For example, if you are making a mind map about the seasons of the year, your key points are autumn, winter, spring and summer, and each should be spaced evenly at the 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions.
Curve more branches away from your key points to make sub-points or sub-themes. The sub-points should be drawn into the empty space and must not be crossing or colliding with each other.
For example, from a mind map about the seasons of the year, your sub-points for the months of winter might be December, January, February and March. All should be spaced evenly and read clearly.
Continue to add branches to your mind map until you have explored all the avenues of the subject. These could be quotes if studying literature or equation formulas if learning a math topic. Your points should make use of the space on the page and be uncluttered and readable.
Add the finishing touches to your mind map. Where possible, add colors and images to aid your brain in memorizing the information. For example, you can use different colors to shade the main points of your map, or insert images to some of the sub-points. These images and colors are landmarks for your memory, helping you follow the map routes to the various topic themes and points.
- Mindmapping – get tooled up (carefulkaty.wordpress.com)
- The master guide to mind mapping software file import and export formats (mindmappingsoftwareblog.com)
- Mindmapping – the origins … (carefulkaty.wordpress.com)
Listening is usually identified as a positive personality trait. It can be seen as a virtue and a sign of generosity and wisdom, which may place listeners at high regard in front of other people. Therefore, many individuals may not hesitate to say they are good listeners, but may do so when confessing they are good talkers.
Listening may seem like an easy process, but active or power listening is a specialized skill, which can be acquired through the intentional training of oneself to focus on what is and isn’t being said. A Certified Professional Coach practices power listening through actively listening to his clients.
One can enhance their powerful listening skills over time by attempting to increase the number of seconds, for which one can stay focused. One of the ways to practice this skill is through counting to 50 silently. If we can try to maintain our counting progress for that period of time, we have practiced the skill of power listening for almost one minute. Now this may seem like a short amount of time but in a conversation this can be quite a long one.
One of the key areas of becoming a power/ active listener is to determine whether you value this skill or not. If we ask ourselves whether it is important enough to spend much of our time listening to what other people say, and whether anything they say may offer any benefit to our life. Can we really listen to someone if we can’t directly see the connection between what they are saying and whether it holds any value to us.
By practicing this powerful skill regularly, we allow it to be part of our conscious thinking process, and we will start to become more aware of how we often listen to others. We may start to observe ourselves in conversations.
Jumping in too early is a guilt trap many people may fall in, but the good news is that we can acquire and develop our skills in listening and trying to understand what the other person is saying and how they are linking things in their own logic.
A good coach is one who listens well, and makes their client feel valued and relieved, through sharing their thoughts and feelings with their coach. That can make clients feel at ease to realize their problems should not take control of them, and that solutions are possible through the voluntary interaction between coach and client.
A good coach discerns what is truly motivating, triggering and inspiring a client, and becomes part of his joy, sadness, and celebrations. A coach’s main focus while listening is to understand what inspires the client and what obstacles stand in the way of realizing this inspiration.
Finally, coaches can try to listen to what the client is not saying, i.e. read between the lines.Non-verbal communication plays a large role in communication. Therefore, not everything we say means what we really want to say.
Active Listening is a skill when refined to a professional level can open the door to a speaker’s internal wisdom. Empathy is the window for that interaction between speaker and listener. Therefore, being actively present for their clients, coaches try their best to focus mainly on what their client really wants to say.
Everyone needs a coach, why not try it for yourself.