Mar 28, 2014

When is a Top-Performer not a Top Peformer?

Over the decades that I’ve worked with and for organizations, there is this ever-present search and maintenance of the “Top-Performer”.  Before I go any further, let me share with you that when I worked for organizations, I usually was one and that I highly respect those that are.

I’ve seen people rise to the level of being a top-performer in different ways; exceeding set goals through hard work, exceeding set goals through creativity, outperforming others because the others weren’t capable of doing the job, exceeding set goals because they had inside help (nepotism or favortism), and more ways that I just haven’t thought of right now.

In the past, I’ve written about the affects of overcompensating for the inherent weaknesses of top-performers, if they are allowed to develop.  What weaknesses do top-performers develop if left to grow?  Let’s face it, if people are treated as though they can do no wrong each and every time they trangress an organization’s policies or even business ethics, they will flaunt their unchallenged status and become brazen in their attitude and behaviors.  The negative impact on a team, a department, or even an entire company can be dramatic.  Case in point: DeSean Jackson of the Philidephia Eagles.

Jackson is an extremely talented individual and, at age 27, had the best year of his NFL career.  Consider these numbers:

  • Last year, his 1,339 yards ranked second-most in franchise history for a single season
  • His 6,117 yards rank fourth in team history
  • His four punt-return touchdowns are the most ever by an Eagle
  • His 12 career touchdowns of at least 50 yards are tied for the most among active NFL players
  •  His 17.2 yards-per-catch average is second-highest among players with at least 300 receptions
  • Jackson became the first player in 69 years to have at least one receiving, rushing and return touchdown in each of his first three seasons

Yet, as far back 2011, the Eagles wanted him off the team so badly that they were willing take a $6 million cap hit in 2014 to rid him from the roster!!!  Why?  Here’s list compiled by Yahoo Sports:

  • Jackson’s known for being hot-headed and enigmatic
  • He wanted to physically attack one of his own coaches
  • He often uses [Social Media] to share snapshots of excessive bar and nightclub tabs, a lifestyle that doesn’t fit into Head Coach Chip Kelly’s culture
  • Only 2 years into a 5-year contract, Jackson wanted to negotiate more money
  • The coaches are concerned with him being around the other players because of his potential connections to gangs

Even Michael Vick, one of the more notorious NFL players himself, says that Jackson ‘needs to understand the maturation process’.  I’ll let you interpret that comment for yourself.  But, whether it is DeSean Jackson or “Joe” in the next cubicle, people will only do what they are able to get away with early on.  As in an relationship, there is a ‘training period’ where boundaries are set…or not.  It is from the infancy stage of the relationship where people know how far they can go.  In Mr. Jackson’s case, Andy Reid felt he couldn’t afford to rein him in during the early years with the team because he might not perform as well.  The consequences have cost the Eagles much more now than had they lost his performance early on.

If you were to look at the organization that you work for right now, and ones you have in the past, could you identify their ‘DeSean Jackson’s’?  My experience with people that behave in that way is that really aren’t top-performers.  You see, many of these people actually hold the rest of the team back from performing at a higher level.  They create conflict and tension.  Many are arrogant and prideful.  None of these things add value to an organization.

When you really consider what constitutes a top-performer, wouldn’t you agree that it would not just be a person that is meeting or exceeding their set goals, but that they are a leader?  Shouldn’t a person that is performing so well become a leader, someone that contrbutes beyond their own personal production?  In what ways?

  • Through inspiring those around them to rise to a higher level
  • Having a vision of the entire team outproducing set goals
  • Sharing work ethics, insights, and other information and traits to help all those around them to become better
  • Become a Servant Leader and Collaborator

And, here’s why this is so important for executives in organizations to understand this; who is usually promoted into leadership roles?  Is it not top-performers?  If they have the negative traits that lead to depressing the performance of an organization when they are in an Individual Contributor role, those traits will be exponential when they are give a role as a leader.  However, what if they are groomed to show the qualities of a true leader that I shared above as an Individual Contributor?  Wouldn’t those be accentuated, too, when they are promoted into a leadership role?  It’s something for all executives to seriously consider.

Creating life in forward motion,

Dr. Edward Lewellen