A few Sundays ago, I was sitting in church and, a couple of pews in front of me was a family of four. The family consisted of a mom and dad, a little boy who was about four years old and a little girl who was about six years old. It was interesting to watch the parents in action, and I could empathize with them, as it brought me back to when my children were that age. As can be expected, the little boy was fidgety. He couldn’t sit still, and his mom and dad were continuously trying to entertain him with books, toys and hugs. The little girl was incredibly quiet. She sat calmly, looking at a picture book and occasionally smiling at her parents. Her parents smiled back, but their focus was squarely on entertaining their son.
How the parents responded (which is fairly typical of anyone who’s been in that situation) in some ways reminded me of what can happen in the workplace. How many times do we as managers pay attention to an employee who routinely causes a commotion or to a lower performing employee while ignoring our steady contributors and even our best performers?
In our industry, the vast majority of managers have our own workload, not to mention our own goals, so “leadership time” can be limited. Another aspect that can be limited is “leadership energy.” For many managers, dealing with poor behavior or poor performance can be draining. Our emotions can range from anxiety to anger, with a whole lot of others in between. Physically, we can feel as though we’ve run a marathon for which we haven’t trained. We’re depleted and need to scramble back to our own work, with no energy for other members of our team.
The problem here isn’t that the poor behaving or poor performing employee shouldn’t garner the manager’s attention. They should and they must. The problem occurs when these employees consume the primary amount of the manager’s attention, to the exclusion of the steady contributors and high performers.
As leaders, we need to realize that the greatest opportunity for increased performance on a team comes from our top performers. And it’s those steady contributors who make up the backbone of a team. These are the people you count on to do a good job every day. They likely have potential to do more and be more. These are the people who truly deserve your highest level of attention. Ensure their expectations are clear, their needs are being met, you’re providing development opportunities and you’re recognizing them in meaningful ways.
In other words, work with that little boy to help him get through the hour, but don’t forget about the little girl who’s doing her best to make your job easy. I promise you, this will never be a waste of your leadership energy.
Joe Bertotto has more than three decades of experience helping leaders improve their workplace cultures. He is the chief culture officer at Vizo Financial Corporate Credit Union and a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach. In 2014, Joe was named a Credit Union Rock Star by Credit Union Magazine. He also recently published his book, Pick Up the Gum Wrapper: How To Create a Workplace That Increases Performance While Improving Lives, which credit union leaders have been using as a guide to increase the effectiveness of their leadership skills and overall culture.