Good Ol’ Harry

Posted on: November 26th, 2014 by
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In most organizations there are at least two performance models. One model is the best performer that management hopes everyone looks up to for outstanding performance. Some employees do use this model for themselves. Some don’t. Management is kidding themselves if they think it’s the only model. The second model is, of course, the worst performer. Let’s call him Good Ol’ Harry.

Who is Harry? Harry is a made up name, but he’s in every organization I’ve ever seen, read about or experienced. He’s probably in your organization. Harry is the worst performing employee in your department or organization, whether you are in the for-profit, non-profit or governmental sector. Harry represents the marginal employee who never seems to be terminated, even though everyone knows he can’t do the job. He always seems to make it to the next year of his tenure. He is the person that continually drags the department or company down. He misses goal, affects overall performance and ultimately impacts your career and compensation.

Why is that important to you? Simple. Let’s look at a fictitious organization where one-third of the workforce are high performers, one-third are average performers and one-third are the lowest level performers. When there is a visible employee like Harry, employees can say to themselves and co-workers, “As long as I’m a better performer than Harry, I’m safe. I don’t have to work any harder as long as Harry’s around”. Translated into action, that means that one-third of your employees use Harry as their model. Just think of the untapped potential that is being wasted.

Jack Welch was the Chairman and CEO of GE and a revered manager. He had a 20-70-10 rule that said 20% of your people are top performers, 70% are average and 10% are your bottom performers. Each year find a way to get rid of the bottom 10%. Jack says, “You want to tell them ‘This is not the place for you. Take some time, take several months, we’re not firing you today.” His philosophy and results were driven by a simple concept: THE TEAM WITH THE BEST PLAYERS WIN.

The question to be asked is… Do you sacrifice the future of your organization for the bottom 10% performers? If the answer to the question is “yes”, I’d seek another company, one that wants to be the best. If the answer is “no”, then what’s the plan for the Good Ol’ Harry’s that are all over the company?

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