We Want High Performers, Right?

Not so fast. The answer to that question may not be as obvious as it may seem.  Maybe we should be like sports teams that want to bring in the very best of the best.  That does seem like the kind of answer one would get during an executive town hall but is it really true?  The first step is to ask our peers if they want to bring in high performers.  Are you ok with bringing in people that are better than you are?  Hold that thought.  Many years ago, well decades now, I went to work for a cotton gin manufacture.  For those of you that have no idea what a cotton gin is then, well let’s just say it was clearly an old company.  How old you ask?  So old they didn’t put you in Cube Jail.  You shared an office with furniture made of real wood.  And, we had lamps on our desks not those $0.50 cent burned out bulbs that get replaced once a year.  Anyway, my first month was really good and everyone welcomed me as the new guy.  However, that welcome started to fade the better I got at my job.  My two roommates, who looked like the band members of Molly Hatchet, didn’t take to kindly to me flying through the backlog of maintenance changes needed (I was a programmer at the time).  One day at lunch, they literally asked me to slow down and stop being a high performer.  They feared not having enough work to keep so many programmers employed.  Now the truth be told, it was only a couple of peers out of about six.
Ah, but leadership and management are different.  Of course, you may have some petty feelings at the lower levels of the organization.  That’s just human nature.  Our coaches and team leads are there for a reason which is to overcome this type of behavior.  Hold on to that thought too.  I have often quoted a leader saying “that’s my job not yours”.  The context of this conversation was that the individual was a high performer and wanted to be involved where their advanced skills aligned but the leader didn’t want someone showing dramatic improvement in the area.  This makes sense because that might have the leader’s leader asking why we have been accepting mediocrity up until this point.  It is easy to blame leadership or jealous employees but the reality is that high performers create disruption.  If your organization is built around making the least disruptive changes then high performers won’t fit in that model.  Saying it another way, in a world that is governed by the least disruptive decision strategy, high performers are to be shunned.  What we have is an environment where excellence will be punished as long as mediocrity is the standard.  Why would you do otherwise?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *