You’ve invested a lot in attracting top-performing A-Player employees. You’re building a team of rock stars. Every time you hire, you’re hiring up, replacing mediocre employees with top-performers with the intention of getting 9-12 times the productivity from those A- Players. But, are you really getting the best from you’re A-Player employees?
Maybe some of your A-Player employees had a lot of energy and enthusiasm when they were first hired, but as the weeks go by you are seeing some things that concern you. There are some tasks that they are not doing as well as you’d hoped. You’ve seen them be off-task more times than you want to acknowledge. The voice of doubt is creeping in, “Did you mishire, yet again? Is this new employee really an A-Player?”
In all likelihood, you did hire an A-Player, but the “drift” you are noticing in their performance is a red flag. Here’s an important question to ask:
Does your A-Player have an opportunity every day to fully utilize their strengths and talents? Extensive Gallup research reveals that employees who use their strengths every day are 6 times more likely to be engaged on the job. Yet, the majority (57%) of American workers report they use their strengths 6 or fewer hours each day. Even worse, 21% report using their strengths for 3 or fewer hours per day.
What really happens when you get to use your strengths all day long? Productivity increases dramatically. When we are talking about your A-Players getting to use their strengths full-time in their work for you…watch out. Their productivity and results will astound you!
What really happens when you are NOT using your strengths?
According to Gallup, the more hours per day employees get to use their strengths to do what they do best, the less likely they are to report experiencing worry, stress, anger, sadness, or physical pain “yesterday.”
When we don’t get to work from our strengths, we pay a heavy psychological toll. Guilt and self-doubt creep in. We no longer look forward to going into work. The alarm goes off in the morning and we hit “snooze.” Because we know what we are capable of when we work from our strengths, we see the areas of our work where we are under performing and it’s painful. We start to question our own abilities.
Do you have your A-Players engaging in some tasks that actually require them to use their Achilles heel on a regular basis? Just as every one of us has natural, inborn strengths, we each have Achilles heels. Our Achilles heels are our weak spots. In real life, it is easy to injure your Achilles tendon from overuse. Imagine you have overused your Achilles tendon, yet you keep trying to run 5 miles every day. This would hurt! Eventually your body will break down in protest. This same phenomenon happens to us psychologically when we are forced to work from our Achilles heels on a regular basis.
To illustrate, when I was in high school, I took physics. It was a small class and it was clear who excelled in physics. I did not excel in physics. Day in and day out, I struggled. I did my best, but it felt bad to see myself falling further and further behind. I began to form an image of myself as a “slacker” because I procrastinated and avoided doing my physics homework. I was so relieved when that year was over.
A month later, I enrolled in my first college course of my own choosing—Introduction to Psychology. I read the entire textbook and other recommended reading BEFORE the class started. I did all the extra bonus work, joyfully. I volunteered for extra research opportunities. I aced every exam. Studying wasn’t “work.” Studying was “fun.”
What was the difference? Psychology plays to my natural strengths and interests, whereas physics required me to work from my Achilles heel. No matter how hard I worked to improve in physics, I barely passed the class. Compare that to the results I got from the effort I put into my psychology coursework…I went on to get a PhD and build a business based on these strengths. Sure, I could have spent years trying to improve in physics, but the improvement would have been minimal at best and I would have been miserable.
What if I need my A-Player to do something that is not a strength of theirs? After all, we’re a small business and there is work to be done.
The beauty of hiring a team is that you have a team to get the work done. Each member of your team has strengths to draw upon. Ask your team members which aspects of their job come easiest to them. In which aspect of their job are they excited to learn more and improve their skill set? Which aspects of their job feel like a continual struggle? Can someone else on the team take over a task that is a struggle? Chances are, your A-Player employee will happily take on additional tasks that draw upon their strengths.
Even better, ask your A-Players what ideas they have for redistributing the work so that they are working more and more from their strengths and less and less from their Achilles Heels.
Make sure you have 1:1 check-ins with you’re A-Players every week. Ask what they would most like to be doing for you. If their ideas align with your company goals and vision, look for opportunities for your A-Player to take on more and more responsibility in these areas.
Also listen for areas where they are struggling and under-performing compared to their peers. These are Achilles heels and you will want to support your employee in finding ways to compensate for these Achilles heels. Just remember, working harder at something that draws upon an Achilles heel NEVER leads to significant improvement. Shifting job responsibilities is a much more effective solution.
If you’d like help aligning your team with their strengths, please reach out to me. Cheers!