There are many great teams who end up under-performing.  They have the right players, the right coaching, it appears to be their time, and yet when it comes time to perform, time to win, they come up short.  There is nothing more frustrating than being involved with such a failure.  Even watching it from a distance is disheartening.  Think about it for a minute.  You have gone through all the effort of putting together a “Best in Class” A-Team. Months of evaluations, turn-over, hiring, training, setting expectations, and being a Tough Leader.  How is it possible that your A-Team isn’t performing?  How can you make sure your A-Team reaches their potential?

In today’s world everyone is entitled to an opinion and seemingly the right to voice it.  In the workplace, these personal opinions are often openly shared while forming a judgments about other people. This happens at all levels. Sometimes it is malicious and sometimes it is just a casual comment about how we wished so and so would just be better at something.  Most likely, we take part in the personal evaluation judgments ourselves.  This is inevitable, so I am not suggesting you can stop people from commenting on their co-workers.

But sit back for a week and keep score.  Silently listen to the conversations around your office and in your own meetings.  Listen for the number of comments which say something negative about someone versus the amount of positive comments.  Regardless of how strong someone is, watch for the inclination of others  to point out people’s deficiencies.

I believe most teams today are locked in a circular conflict between talent and criticism.  Regardless of the talent someone brings to work every day, we can always find something about them or how they are doing things that could be better.  In many workplaces, this is the primary focus of conversation between co-workers.

As managers, it has become one of our primary duties to identify employees shortfalls. Often this can result in the perceived need of management to need to fix these deficiencies.   After all, that is what Manager’s do, right?  Fix broken things.  So if there are things someone doesn’t do well, we should fix them.  This can permeate an organization until everyone’s most important development goal is to be fixed.  If you have read some of my blogs, you know by now, I’m not in the business of fixing people.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that you should be ignoring the deficiencies of your A-Players.  They most likely don’t interfere with their primary performance and real contribution.

Take, for example, the star salesperson who doesn’t fill out their sales reports on time, or the Project Manager who may not give the best presentations but brings every project in on plan without fail.  What is the point of sitting around talking about how if they could do this or that, they would be better.  The forced distraction only lessens their performance.  Could you imagine football coaches and players sitting around talking about how poorly Peyton Manning, quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts, blocks or tackles?  Or that he isn’t really very good at kick-off returns?  It would be ridiculous.  But pay attention around your office and you will hear the same criticisms of your A-Players.

Marcus Buckingham‘s, author of “Go Put Your Strengths to Work”, research found that only 13% of workers felt their strengths were being put to use on a daily basis.  The rest of the time they were performing tasks in areas where they did not make a difference.  How demoralizing.  Rounding out your performers is not as important as finding extra and improved methods for them to focus on their talents.  You need for your A-Players to be completely focused on what they do well!  If they are a quarterback, they need to be throwing the ball.

A Leader does not focus on weaknesses.  Focusing on weaknesses results in creating a performance culture based on the lowest common denominator.  A Leader must understand the strengths of his A-Team and place them in a position everyday where they can maximize those strengths.  Great people are stimulated by performing great work and winning based on their talents and efforts.  Placing them in situations where their weaknesses prevail only creates a mediocre performance.  Leadership is responsible when A-Players are winning… and when they are under-performing.

In previous articles, I have discussed the time lost working with C-Players instead of A-Players.  Focusing on A-Player weaknesses provides the same poor result.  Your goal as the Leader of an A-Team is to maximize potential of your A-Team.  To do this you must provide them Inspiration, Guidance, and Support.

 

“A-TEAM” LEADERSHIP

If you are focused on strengths, Inspiration becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you allow an A-Player to do things they are good at, the probability is high that they will be very successful.  This success brings self-confidence, pride and rewards.  The success regenerates itself over and over creating a perpetual momentum.  An A-Player in this “zone’ will produce amazing results.

Just because you haven’t focused on the weaknesses, doesn’t mean they have gone away.  With many A-Players weakness remains a “blind spot” which can trip them up.  Here is where a Leader needs to provide Guidance for his A-Player.  You still are not going to try to fix the weakness, instead you are going to Guide your A-Player around their own “mine field” so they can continue to perform without a fall.  A Leader learns how to guide an A-Player through their weaknesses and failings without criticism.

Supporting an A-Player is often one of the most under-thought and misapplied strategies in gaining A-Team Performance.  It becomes a problem when you begin to look at your team in a hierarchical form.  The mistake is in thinking any one A-Player is more important than the other.  Once a hierarchy is established a situation is created where each level is responsible for supporting the level above.  Great Teams are not made of superior to subordinate relationships.  Who supports the bottom level?

The important thing to remember in gaining A-Team Performance is that although you can accept a weakness in an individual, you cannot accept a weakness in the Team.  Therefore, you must also have A-Players who excel at the “blocking and tackling” or sales reports and presentations.  The goal as the A-Team’s Leader is to insure the Team Members, as a collective, possess all of the strengths necessary to build a Best in Class Team that excels in the performance of their collective job and beats the competition.  As a Street Smart Leader you need to Inspire and Guide “every” member of the A-Team to Support the weaknesses of their Teammates with their own Strengths.  There is no perfect person, but we can create an exceptionally high performing A-Team.  Stop the negative talk and focus your culture on A-Player’s Strengths.  This is the stuff of Championship Teams!

Advertisements