It’s been my experience that there are four types of employees. Knowing the differences will guide you in terms of how you spend your time managing them.
First up: All Stars
All Stars are employees who are undeniably great at their job. They perform well beyond expectations. They obliterate obstacles, outpace expectations, and produce results that leave you shaking your head.
They don’t do this because you’re a great manager – they thrive under almost any manager. If you’re going to be honest, you’ll admit they’re great not because you’re a great manager, but because they’re simply a cut above everyone else and your job is to challenge them and then get out of their way.
All Stars represent perhaps 2% of the workforce. If you have one be grateful (and be aware – they’re so good you won’t have them long. They’ll move upward and onward before long).
Next up: Steady Performers
The vast majority of your team will made up of Steady Performers, who get the job done, meeting expectations and standards, day after day. While they may have a bad day or two or an occasional dip in productivity, they soon return to a predictable, quite satisfying level of performance. Keys to managing them well include making sure to do check-ins, clarifying goals and expectations, and finding ways to recognize and reward their performance.
Third: Marginal Performers
Sometimes, a Steady Performer will become a Marginal Performer, consistently underperforming for several days or weeks. This might stem from personal issues they’re having outside work, a sense of burnout, issues with co-workers, or any number of other reasons. It’s critical that you spend time coaching and/or counseling a Marginal Performer. As I see it, by definition, the Marginal Performer can be turned around. You’ve already seen their potential, and you should be working with them to identify what’s gone wrong and how it can be repaired.
Last up: Lost Causes
Sometimes, people become a Lost Cause. Like All Stars, they are a tiny percentage of the workforce – probably under 2% as well. They’ve given up. They no longer want to do the job well enough to meet expectations. They’ve quit but haven’t left. You know you have a Lost Cause when you realize you’ve been working harder to improve their performance than they have. If someone truly is a Lost Cause, the only appropriate action for the manager is to facilitate their transfer or termination.
What’s this mean for you?
Be grateful if you have an All Star. Be as hands-on as needed, but hands-off as much as possible, for Steady Performers. Be actively engaged in coaching and creating performance improvement plans (formal or informal) for Marginal Performers. Waste no further time trying to rehabilitate Lost Causes. Help them move on.