Get the 80/20 Rule the Right Way Around

Ross Group

Guest contributor and co-founder of workwellgroup, Steph Bown, shares her insights on the right way to manage your star performers.

My old mentor and now great friend, the ex-Director of People & Culture at Swisse Wellness, Catherine Crowley, used to say that good people not getting enough love from their managers were “dying on the vine”.

Ever the straight-shooter, Catherine was referring to a truism that many leaders I work with are challenged by.

We spend 80% of our time with the people who deliver 20% of the output; when clearly this is the wrong way around!!

This idea was presented by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman in their groundbreaking 1999 book “First Break All the Rules.

“If you pay the most attention to your strugglers and ignore your stars, you can inadvertently alter the behaviours of your stars. Guided by your apparent indifference, your stars may start to do less of what made them stars in the first place and more of other kinds of behaviours that might net them some kind of reaction from you, good or bad.”

Peter Drucker famously quoted – “What gets measured, gets managed”.

It’s also true that what gets recognised, gets repeated.

If we’re not paying enough attention to our top performers, we’re actually rewarding average performance and ultimately stunting business growth. A study published in Personnel Psychology in 2013 which cut across several industries, revealed that the top 5 percent of the workforce at the researched firms produced 26 percent of the firm’s total output. That means that top performers have an incredibly high ROI because they produce more than four times more than average workers.

When we pay disproportionate attention to our stars over our strugglers, at best we underutilise our stars, and at worst, we actively drive them away.

Jen Shirkani, author of “Ego vs EQ” and “Choose Resilience” talks about what leaders do to unintentionally drive high performers away:

  • We reward our high performers by leaving them alone; reducing their access to on the job coaching and feedback.
  • We give them the toughest projects; causing them to work long hours with high stress
  • We have unrealistic expectations of them; because they continue to deliver to high standards with no complaint.

If you’re a people leader – think about how you’re sharing your time. Can you apply the 80/20 rule in your favour and ultimately increase team results, with less effort?

If you love what you’ve read here, make sure you ask Steph about her Team Alchemy programabout her Team Alchemy program. And for more of Steph’s insights, make sure you check out her articles on LinkedIn!