Who’s hogging your attention?

How do you split your time between your superstars, your under-performers and your steady, reliable team members?

I’ve spent some time this week working with a couple of my private clients, talking to their teams, individually, one-to-one to discover:

  1. What they love about their work
  2. What they find frustrating
  3. What aspirations they have
  4. What blocks them from giving great service to their customers
  5. What one thing my client could do to improve their working day

The first was a revisit, to check the progress that we’ve made and also address any new or remaining niggles. The other was a first visit – new client, new team, many of the same challenges.

What I learned from the new team will help me to help them over the next 12 months. It’s a great exercise for a business to do. The thing I love most about it is that you get to talk to both the old-timers, people who have been around a few years and also the newbies – team members who’ve been around less than 6 months.

Quite often, you’ll hear people say, ‘Oh, you won’t get anything useful from new people, they’ve not been here long enough to know how things work’. But that’s actually the point – you get their fresh view on what has become the wallpaper to everybody else. You know, when you walk into a new house sometimes and you’ve got a wall that you need to sort out because it looks hideous and then you find you’ve been living in the house two years and that wall still looks exactly as hideous but you’ve just stopped seeing it? New people spot things that the longer serving team members no longer see, or recognise as an issue.

Yes, you can learn a lot about a business from talking to those who work there.  But how often do we do it.

I was talking to my sister about this very thing in advance of my client meetings, and she reminded me of the analogy of the choir, the crypt and the congregation.

The choir are the people in your team who are the real superstars, the people who you love having around you – your high flyers. The people that you give the big jobs to, to get them sorted.

The crypt are the people who are under-performing. They are sometimes the rotten apples in your barrel, the people who are either constantly moaning or constantly asking the same questions over and over again, or simply very high-maintenance.

Then in between sit the congregation very often forgotten because they are steady, they are reliable, they are consistent. They don’t ask for anything, they are possibly never going to be your high flyers or you may just not notice their potential. But they are absolutely solid as a rock, you know that they will come in, they will do a really good job and then they’ll go home. No trouble, just really consistent, steady stayers.

So, what percentage of your time do you spend on your superstars, your under-performers and your steady reliable team members?

Perhaps your choir, your superstars don’t need too much of your attention because by definition they are self-starting, high-achievers. Your time is spent with them on public praise and in high energy gatherings, on setting new challenges and keeping them stretched and fulfilled. After all, you want to keep them!

What about the crypt? People in here may just need to be trained and nurtured to progress to the congregation or even the choir. But how much time do you spend on someone who you know is just not the right fit but you dread having that conversation with and so put it off? What about the person who does an okay job but who is incredibly needy of reassurance, of constant affirmation who picks on any little thing, who just sucks the life out of you on a daily basis? How much time do you spend and how long do you persevere?

And then how much time does that leave to spend on people who simply do their very best every day, the congregation? They may not be superstars in the recognised sense of the word, they may never achieve greater wealth or status than they have already, but they go about their work cheerfully every day, and they do it consistently well. They are the sort of people who you would want beside you in the trenches (do people still say that these days?); the sort of people who are calm and measured in a crisis; who have had their share of hard knocks, but who just keep bouncing back; the sort of people you can rely on to be…well, reliable!

Someone who springs to mind was a carer for my dad.

Now I loved my dad to bits, and he was a positive, loveable man…but he was also 90, had run his own business since he was knee high to a grasshopper, and as a result of both combined, he could, at times, be a bit difficult. But this lovely lady had him wrapped around her little finger. I’ve watched and listened in awe on many an occasion, as she arrived at 8pm, as cheerful as the first visit she made at 8am, with tales of what she’d had to deal with in the pub (that she also managed) the night before! My life! It’s not like she was paid a fortune for what she did for my dad and others like him.

And he loved her… for her ‘not phased by anything’ attitude, for the fact that she didn’t need to be asked if she saw a job that needed doing, and the fact that she brightened up his sometimes boring days with her banter and cheeriness. I know she’s the sort of person who he would have loved to have working with him back in the day – great at keeping the customers happy, seeing and solving problems before they arose, a good hard reliable worker. I bet we would all welcome someone like this into our teams.

So how much attention do you give these people – the congregation? Do they get the public praise? Do you set them challenges? Do you encourage them to aspire to the choir? Or do you just let them carry on… being reliable?

Do one thing: organise some one-to-ones with your team.

Find out what one thing you could do to make their job easier, and help them to serve your customers better. Let them talk, and listen to them.

And if you feel that you wouldn’t get straight answers then bring in an outsider, bring in a friend, bring me in to talk to your team and get this information because what I’m picking up with my clients teams’ is absolute gold dust.

The sort of stuff that doesn’t readily come out; feedback about where people see themselves; feedback about who’s sitting next to who and how that’s affecting their work; feedback about how poor communication is.

Little stuff maybe, but it’s always the little stuff, isn’t it?

Have a great week.


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Marianne Page

Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)


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