I like John Timpson, he has built up his family retail business in a way that anyone would be proud of. I have even had the honor of sharing a podium with him and witnessed, first hand, his fantastic collection of short stories and one liners. But there’s one statement he came out with recently that has got me thinking. He said “Management teams tend to spend 80% of their time on people that are not up to the job or no good, when they should be spending 80% of their time with the good ones.”

The more I think about it, the more I get pulled in two directions. On the one hand I think managers should spend time on their underperforming employees because one of their key roles is to coach, motivate and train their employees into becoming top performers (imagine a football coach that only focused his or her attention on the very best players and forgot about all the rest)?  On the other hand the under performers eat up the time of the good ones.

Employees in Europe are a very precious resource, so much so that letting one go is a terrifyingly expensive and time consuming process. Therefore, if it is not for downsizing reasons, I believe that it is always best to at least give an under performer your very best shot at trying to get them back on track.   Consequently I have witnessed on a number of occasions the wonderful experience of a turnaround from poor employee to great employee.  But there’s an important question that needs to be asked; do great employees really want us to spend 80% of our time with them, surely they prefer to be left alone to get on with the job?

Over the last thirty five years, I like to think that I should have built up enough experience to know when a manager is going too far in either protecting or exposing their underperforming employees.  So when I am asked for my opinion on an individual case, it may come as a surprise that I often think of the times in the past when I got it wrong and wonder if I am really in a position to judge at all?  So what is the bottom line? At what point do you have to say enough is enough – this underperforming employee is not worth the effort?  This week, I will leave it to you to decide! Feel free to share your stories and opinions…

Have a good week,

Harley