Man, have I ever been so guilty of focusing on the troublemakers– the people who just can’t perform and projects that are failing.
This means I neglect the performers since the “squeaky wheel” gets the attention.
I’ve lost some good people because I was so busy helping the stragglers that I unintentionally ignored my top performers.
The unintended result of my actions as a novice manager was to punish the performers and reward the troublemakers.
Have you fallen for the “squeaky wheel” problem, too?
The right answer is to spend 80% of your time with the 20% of your team that is kicking butt.
You’d do the same with your boosted posts.
And even if you’re not managing people, you can prioritize your projects in the same way.
The Pareto Principle is also known as the 80/20 rule– a way to focus on what matters.
Of course, you say– make the good things better.
Who wouldn’t agree with that?
“One way I exercise the Pareto principle in my work is to LIMIT the number of hours I work in a day. This drives my efforts in two ways.
First, limiting my working hours forces me to focus only on those things that are the most important.
I have no choice but to focus on the 20% of activities that drive 80% of the result. Second, limiting my working hours frees me up to focus on the most important assets I have, my health and my time.”
The reason people don’t do this is because we all care for the underperformers.
We want to help them– and then we end up continuing to help them more than we intended.
And pretty soon, they have sucked up your time.
The good-natured attempt by you to help has backfired, creating entitlement instead of improved performance.
You’ve set an ugly pattern, since now they know they can cry wolf and you come running.
Perhaps you’re like me, and your people have realized that you will let people get away with things since you don’t like to fire people.
My mentor, who was CEO of American Airlines, told me that there are 3 types of managers:
- Those who are loved.
- Those who get results.
- Those who are loved get results.
You’ll see 99% of managers in the first two buckets and 1% in that last bucket.
The managers who are loved are kind to their people at the expense of getting results– this is the majority of managers.
The managers who get results are called 4 letter names for being “bossy” since they don’t have patience or empathy– they want stuff to get done on time.
The last bucket of effective and loved managers is rare because high-performance situations are possible only when the entire team is high-performance. All you need is one freeloader, naysayer, or rebel (Leroy Jenkins!) to destroy the team culture.
The most effective manager of all time, Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric, embraces the “up or out” management philosophy.
He says you should promote the top 10%, ignore the middle 80%, and fire the bottom 10%.
Sounds like a professor grading on a curve in school, right?
This works because, in any group of people, you will statistically have some poor performers, mediocre players, and stars.
The grossly incompetent ones are easy to identify and remove, but it’s the mediocre ones that could kill you.
Especially true if your company is young and growing.
With Facebook ads, you know to allocate your budget against winners, instead of putting the same amount on every post.
Or worse, we’ve seen “gurus” recommend that you put even more money on losing posts to “average things out” or “help their performance”.
In the same way that you should put more dollars against winning ads, why not do the same with your people and projects?
We believe in equality of opportunity, but not equality of outcome.
Everyone deserves a chance.
We’ll coach them, but not babysit– there’s a difference.
I’ll end by saying something successful entrepreneurs know, but don’t want to admit.
When looking at the performance of a group of people, especially in a start-up or less structured environment, you’ll find that the stars are not just 20% better than the “average”, but are usually 10-20x better.
It’s not that they work harder, attend more meetings, or write 10X more code.
Rather, their efforts make a 10-20x impact.
“As an amateur swimmer, I used to mistakenly believe by kicking my legs harder and using more force on my stroke I could cover more distance. I was really just flailing and making a big splash.
A pro swimmer covers great lengths not by exerting herculean effort but by having an efficient swimming stroke.
As a manager, it’s easy to want to play the role of “lifeguard” and “save” those making a big splash and commotion. But your time will be better spent coaching up and rewarding your proficient performers.”
There are millions of engineers who have built or tried to build mail processing systems.
But there is only one Paul Buchheit, who created Gmail all by himself as a side project at Google.
Where are the winners in your company and are you doing everything you can to promote them, encourage them, and spend time with them?