Everyone Can’t Be a Top Performer. Why Not?

Posted: January 12, 2011 in Collaboration & Teamwork, Human Value, Performance
Tags: ,

It’s not uncommon for companies, especially larger ones, to have performance rating systems.  Generally they include from 3 to 6 ratings, with the trend moving towards fewer rather than more. This is done for a number of reasons.  Financial planning is probably foremost because companies have to allocate funds for next year’s salary increases.  Consequently, distribution guidelines, or sometimes forced rankings are used for forecasting.  Secondly, low to high performance is an ingrained philosophy that is a result of our mindsets, i.e. belief systems.  After all, we’ve been exposed to the concept our entire lives, especially in school.

Also popular today are the concepts of teamwork and collaboration.  So let’s see, “I’m going to work with you on this project and later this year ‘they’ are going to compare my performance to yours.  Hmmm.”  Will you support me totally? Any inclination to hold back just a bit of information or knowledge to give yourself an edge?

What if we change the way we think about performance distribution?

Years ago, for the first time, I was given the head coach position of a boys basketball team (ages 10-11).  As the the head coach I finally had a chance to try a different approach to coaching. I enlisted two assistants who loved kids and didn’t mind them goofing off a bit and having fun.  Our job was not “to be liked by the kids” but rather to “like each kid” to help build their self-esteem.

While I had a number of rules, the most important one for the kids was – “Your goal is to make the other players on the team look good.” That meant that each kid had 9 other players trying to make them look good versus each one focusing on themselves.

When we talked about what that might look like, these were some of things we came up with over time.

  • Get the ball to someone closer to the basket so they can make an easier shot.
  • If someone gets the ball to you close to the basket, make the shot so it looks like a good pass.
  • If someone misses the shot, get the rebound so the shot looks better.
  • Get open so it’s easier for someone to make a good pass to you.
  • If someone gets open, pass the ball to them.
  • If someone makes a good pass to you, catch it so it looks like a good pass.
  • If someone makes a bad pass, try hard to catch it so the pass looks better.
  • Pick or screen for the ball handler so it’s easier for them to drive.
  • If someone with the ball gets trapped or stuck, run to help them out.
  • If someone is getting beat on defense, help them out.

Near the end of the season, the president of our area’s sports association, which includes all sports, received this e-mail and forwarded it to me.

Dear Dr. Marconi,

My husband and I have five sons, four over the age of 21, who have participated in the sports of football, soccer, basketball, baseball and wrestling over the past twenty-something years.  We have experienced good coaching and had a couple of horrible experiences.

Our youngest son, aged eleven, has played basketball with this organization last winter with Don Keys and Rick Phelps and this season with Rick Phelps, Mr. Jesse and Mr. Jones.  These fine men have provided by far the best experience that any of our sons has ever had.  They have molded a group of normal kids into an incredible team.  The kids have had so much fun.  I have yet to hear one word of criticism directed from one kid to another.  The kids support each other and try to make sure that everyone has a good time.  I may be wrong, but I believe that I heard that they had never coached basketball before. These guys should be teaching the coaching clinics.  The kids have all felt free to make mistakes and try things that they have not done before without fear that the result may not turn out perfectly.

Every boy has blossomed during the season into a competent basketball player.  The team as a whole is truly greater than its component parts.  They work together in a way that I have never seen in such young kids. My hat is off to these gentlemen! I don’t know how it could get any better than this.

Kitty B.

I believe that some of Kitty’s observations had to do with the rule mentioned earlier.  In hindsight, perhaps it would have been more accurate to say “Your goal is to help the other players on the team perform better.” Imagine if we used this approach at work without the fear of making others look better than ourselves.  I wonder if there could be a department with all  Top performers or maybe it’s more about a creating a Top performing department.

Incite: Is it possible to rethink how we evaluate and reward behavior?  What would it look like, feel like, and sound like if every one was focused on helping each other perform at their best?  If you are not constrained by a performance rating system, how can you begin to implement the concept in your organization or company?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s