Accentuate the Positive
Nurture your best workers or risk
losing them. No matter how good they are, each has needs you
Most managers spend an inordinate amount of time with their
less-than-star performers, resolving myriad problems and
addressing challenges in hopes that these problematic employees
don’t ultimately increase the firm’s turnover rate.
I, too, have focused on the most difficult members of staff.
But what about our good and great employees—those who are
on a positive career path, are intelligent, successful and
helping us all move forward? Certainly they deserve their fair
share, if not the lion’s share, of our attention. So, for
a much needed change, let’s accentuate the positive by
considering the following “Who’s Who” of
Get It Done Debbie always pulls through in a crunch.
She’s resourceful, tireless and focused on the goal at
hand. She’s trustworthy, never lets you down and pulls
her own weight. She holds herself accountable for mistakes,
learns from them and rarely repeats them. See Debbie rock, see
Debbie roll, see Debbie self-combust.
With a “get it done at all cost” type, your
challenge is to prevent her from burning out. Help Debbie by
making sure she’s not taking on too much, by delegating
to her thoughtfully, and by checking in with her on a regular
basis rather than just letting her go, go, go. Just as a
long-distance runner has to pace herself to reach the finish
line, Debbie needs help planning and managing multiple
priorities so she’s not left blistered and depleted on
the side of the road.
Honest Abe tells it like it is and keeps you from becoming
delusional from breathing your own fumes. You turn to him when
you need the truth, no matter how distasteful, and he gives it
to you straight. He knows that being brutally honest can be
perceived as brutality, so he ensures the information he
conveys is not presented in a hurtful or inflammatory manner.
With Abe, you know where you stand. Keep Abe upright by
honoring his need for confidentiality, make sure you never
“kill the messenger” and don’t turn him into
a snitch. An honorable and honest employee is rare and
wonderful—make sure he knows it.
Intelligent Isabel gets it. She is highly educated and
experienced—an expert in her field. She understands the
day-to-day as it relates to the big picture, has a high
emotional IQ and sails through difficult interpersonal
situations. She’s great on strategic work teams, in
creative brainstorming sessions and in problem identification
and resolution. Isabel thrives on flexing her intellectual
muscles. Keep those muscles strong with a little circuit
training: pepper her daily, routine assignments with special
projects and new experiences to keep Isabel in top form.
Feel Good Phil is a light in the darkness. He’s happy,
optimistic, energetic, and he lifts the spirits of everyone
around him. Phil is a trusted confidant, an adept team player;
he knows everyone’s name and fits in comfortably at all
levels. Keep Phil’s spirits high by reaching out and
engaging him. Find out what makes him tick, assign him work
that is mutually beneficial and tap into his natural, positive
leadership qualities. Where Phil goes, others will follow, so
make sure he’s on the right track.
Innovative Ira is never satisfied with the status quo.
Looking for new and better ways to get things done and thinking
of creative approaches are his strong suits. Ira can be worth
his weight in gold, particularly if he’s part of a
creative process. You’ll often find him in marketing or
communications, but he can show up anywhere. Frequently, Ira is
overlooked or even avoided if a firm prefers slow change or is
steeped in tradition. Find an outlet for Ira—his
innovative thinking may be what’s needed to get the ball
rolling in a new, more exciting direction.
My Who’s Who list is not all-inclusive. There are many
other valued employee-types. There are also many types
intentionally excluded from this list. Notice the absence of
Tries Hard but Fails Fred, Stays Late to Be Seen Sue and
Heart’s in the Right Place Patty. These folks may appear
to be assets, but in reality they’re benign at best and
an impediment to productivity at worst. Don’t include
them when selecting those to shower with time and attention. In
fact, put them on the list of those to carefully evaluate in
terms of ongoing employment.
Way back when, Bing Crosby told us to “accentuate the
positive; eliminate the negative.” While we can’t
eliminate all negatives, we can consciously focus on the many
positives. Take a look around. You’ll see your firm is
full of successful, creative, intelligent and optimistic
employees. Pay attention to and participate in acknowledging
these individuals. Not only will it give you a pleasant respite
from the typical management woes; it may just give you a more
positive outlook in the process.
Kramer, an HR consultant, is a contributing writer.