As busy leaders in today’s environments, how should time by divided most appropriately to provide the support that will make a real difference to the team?

Usually, when asked whether you should spend more time on your top performers (10%), middle performers (80%) or poor performers (10%), managers will often opt for those in the poor category.  Many believe that poor performers reflect badly on them as managers or, if the contract is ended, they could be accused of not giving enough feedback or guidance.  They may determine that spending the majority of their time getting the poor performer to the next level must be good for the organisation.

The middle performers are doing the job that’s required of them so, although valuable, may be considered as low maintenance for the busy manager.  And the top performers need little support as they are doing everything well and have the drive and determination to succeed.

However, all three types of performers need your time, and maybe not in the proportion that most initially think.

Middle performers could fall behind and end up in the poor category, but with some attention they could become one of your top performers.  Reduce the pressure on your time by focussing on regular performance reviews and encouraging coaching, training and development by utilising all your available resources (internal and external).

Top performers need more of your time, maybe even the bulk of your time. There is always more potential to be developed from your top performers and although they often don’t ask for your time, that doesn’t mean they don’t want it or expect recognition and support.  They are also the team members you want to retain, but are likely to be those looking for more from their role (be that in the form of challenge or promotion).

By focusing on your top performers more, you not only encourage better overall results, but you may also be developing your future leaders who can then help with mentoring the rest of the team.

If leaders are not distributing their time effectively and fairly, resentment can set it. Everyone needs your support in some way, but the balance of your time may need further consideration in order to get optimum value.

Of course, giving the right kind of support is essential and knowing when to use additional resources is key.  As a leader, you are not expected to know and be able to train on everything.  You might not be the best person to train on certain aspects of the role.  And developing skills for coaching, for instance, takes time and commitment, and an appreciation of how we learn effectively.

Our brain is always looking for patterns and enjoys searching for those “a-ha” moments which occur when various ideas that were not linked before come together in the form of a new one.  When coaching and training, this is what we’re looking to achieve for each of the individuals – their own “a-ha” moments, learning, linking and applying the information to their own experience.

However, once that is achieved, the idea, behaviour or habit needs to be hardwired in our brains.  We need to give it enough attention over enough time and embed it in our brain as long-term memory, otherwise it will be lost again.  Have you ever come back from a training course, all guns blazing, really enthusiastic about what could be done, only for the day-to-day to take over and all the information and plans forgotten (usually within days!)?

Think about an idea you had, but you didn’t write it on a priority list, you didn’t discuss it, you didn’t action it.  Did you forget about it?  Almost certainly yes!

So, having reviewed how much time you’re spending with your team members, use that time appropriately to help guide them by providing a supportive environment, understanding their learning styles and how to use real life applications, embedding understanding through action plans, and providing them with the time to reflect, digest and think creatively.


Contact us if you’d like more information on how executive coaching can help develop leadership skills.

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