Thursday, May 27, 2010

How to coach star performers.

Post 497 - Among the people at Bell Labs and its competitors, Kelley and Caplan found that 85 to 90 percent of the extremely talented people hired never rose beyond average when it came to productivity. They also found that the 10 to 15 percent of hires who rose to “star performance” status were eight times more productive than the average or mediocre performers. The key to converting average or mediocre people to star status lies in determining and then coaching their competencies in nine areas. According to a Bell Labs study, here are the nine strategies of highly productive workers:

- Taking initiative.
Star performers go beyond just informing someone of an error, they correct it. The mediocre don’t.

- Networking.
Star performers establish their anticipated needs for outside input prior to beginning a project. The mediocre wait until there’s a need, and then look for help.

- Self-management.
Stars know that self-management goes beyond time management and includes management of effort and knowledge. The mediocre feel that time management is all that’s needed.

- Teamwork effectiveness.
Star performers are comfortable with being either a follower or a leader. The mediocre tend to push too hard for leadership roles.

- Leadership.
Star performers know that small leadership roles are as important as the bigger, more visible ones. The mediocre are often disappointed with smaller, less viable leadership assignments and, as a result, perform at that level while expressing their displeasure.

- Followership.
Star performers are aware of the value of following as well as leading and understand the need to contribute to the leader’s and the team’s performance. The mediocre are often difficult to work with in a team setting and focus more on getting credit for themselves.

- Perspective.
Superior performers are able to see how their immediate work factors into the big picture. The star performer seeks out other view points, like those of the customer, manager or other team members. Mediocre workers often seem to live in a world defined by the length of their own reach. They tend to have difficulty accepting thoughts and ideas from anyone other than themselves.

- Show-and-Tell.
Star performers are master presenters. The mediocre are PowerPoint specialists.

- Organizational savvy.
Star performers understand how they contribute to the overall performance of the firm and are able to navigate through the competing interests of an organization. The mediocre are often perplexed with organization politics and hide behind the mantra of not being a “political person.”

When coaching someone, start by asking four questions:
- What do I need to know about you and your role in order to be helpful?
- What do you need to know about me, and about my role?
- How should we best keep in contact with one another?
- How shall we address obstacles and challenges with one another when they occur?

Look for these three signs that someone is "uncoachable":

- He has no problem. If he doesn't want to change, he won't be able to. Don't waste your time trying to persuade him to see the error of his ways.

- He's in the wrong job. Ask him, "If the company shut down today, would you be relieved, surprised, or sad?" If he says "relieved," help him to figure out what's next. There's no use coaching someone who's truly unhappy about his job.

- Everyone else is the problem. It's impossible to help someone who blames everyone else for his problems. Move on — find someone who's ready to admit his problematic behaviors and accept your help.

Just before his retirement, the late Alabama football coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant, observed: “I’m just a plowhand from Arkansas, but I’ve learned how to put and hold a team together. I’ve learned how to lift some individuals up and how to calm others down, until finally they’ve got one heartbeat, together, as a team. To do that, there are just three things I’d ever have to say: If anything went wrong, I did it. If it went semi-good, then we did it. If anything went real good, then you did it! That’s really all it takes to get other people to win for you.”

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