How to Rise Above Squeaky-Wheel Leadership and Energize Top Performance
Squeaky-wheel leaders spend too much time focused on broken stuff.
The seduction of squeaky-wheel leadership makes confused leaders feel important. But, ultimately it means:
- Failure outshines progress.
- Poor performers take priority over top.
- Environments migrate toward low energy and disengagement.
Today’s HR challenge is retaining and maximizing top performers while developing the middle.
Compassion versus a kick in the pants:
#1. Lean toward compassion, when top performers fall short. Typically, they kick themselves in the pants already. A kind word from you is gold when top performers feel disappointed in themselves.
#2. Avoid contradicting top performer’s self-condemnation. It falls on deaf ears. Agree with them instead. You’re right. You did fall short.
Compassion is turning toward the future with renewed focus and energy, not shielding people from reality.
‘Woe is me’ never produces forward movement.
#3. Enable forward-facing reflection.
- Express confidence. If history tells me anything, you’ll rise to the challenge next time.
- Focus on development. What are you learning?
- How does this disappointment enhance your capacity and expand your ability?
#4. Pull with.
The magic words of servant-leadership are, “How can I help?”.
#5. Provide bodacious challenge. Don’t shy away from laying down new challenges after disappointing performance.
Raise the bar, don’t lower it. Top performers relish a chance to prove themselves. After all, if you learn from failure, you reach higher next time.
New challenges, after disappointing performance, let top performers know you still believe in them.
What energizes top performers after disappointing performance?
How might compassion be useful? Unuseful?
Excellent and spot on insofar as issue identification and solutions. Top Performers also want you to DEAL with the poor performers and not just accept those behaviors. But keeping everything aligned to the Big Picture and understanding that everyone contributes is important.
Nice framework, Dan. As expected.
Thanks Dr. Scott. Great point. Employees complain about managers/leaders who don’t deal with poor performers. Cheers
Simple, but really effective.
I love #1 – sometimes leaders forget that their employees are often just as aware that they’ve screwed up or made a mistake. No one likes failing.
…and number #4 – what a difference maker, ‘How can I help?’
Thanks for sharing.
Thanks Jamie. It’s just too easy to get sucked into negativity. I’m not for pretending that things are better than they are. However, people get hired for their talent/strengths. We should keep those in mind, even when things go poorly.
We should also keep in mind that dealing with patterns is different from dealing with one time failure. Cheers
Thank you Dan,
Since top performers typically have taken themselves to task long before anyone else does, does agreeing with them (#2) risk pouring salt in the wound? As in, “Wow, I already beat myself up, you noticed and are disappointed in me TOO?”
Leadership of men has changed a lot. Each one has his /her way of doing things. No one is without abilities. A Leader who is able to harness the strength with understanding and compassion will see that people deliver. This attitude sends signal to all that he cares.