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One of my favorite leadership books is First, Break All the Rules, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. When I read this book a few years ago, it completely changed the way I managed.

Try This Exercise:

On the left-hand side of a blank piece of paper, write down the names of the people who report to you, in descending order of productivity, the most productive at the top, the least productive at the bottom. On the right-hand side, write down the same names, but this time in descending order of “time you spend with them”, the most at the top, the last time at the bottom.  Now draw straight lines joining the names on the left with the appropriate names on the right.

Do the lines cross?  They often do. On the surface, this would appear to be the safe thing to do. After all, your best employees can already do the job.  The struggling ones need help or they’ll not only bring themselves down, but they’ll mess things up for the entire team as well.

Research shows that the best managers spend the most time with their best employees.  They strive to unleash their best employee’s talent.   The best managers carve out expectations that will stretch and focus their best players. They highlight and perfect each person’s unique style to help them better perform their role.  They ask how they can help that person succeed more. Yes, everyone needs training.  The point here is to avoid spending countless hours trying to get your message across to employees with limited potential.  Spend that extra time with your stars, unleashing their potential.

When it comes to working with employees, remember that we naturally thrive on positive reinforcement.  When negative feedback is warranted, the best managers don’t shy away from it.  But they also know that frequent, informal interactions that demonstrate positive reinforcement and coaching will help them retain their best players.

Here’s what you can do today –  go “re-hire” your best employees. Go back and tell them why they are so good.  Don’t assume they know how you feel about them and their work.    Ask them about their goals and how you can help them get there.   Do these things regularly and you will earn their loyalty in return.

You can learn more about First, Break All The Rules here.  I hope you find it as helpful as I did.

Have a great week!


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