Who Are the Keepers? …3


“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Sun Tzu…

Post 3: Ron laughed out loud.  “I’ll take you up on that dessert if you ask for a few more napkins….  I want to draw another visual if we’re going to talk about Agents of Change; and we need to start another list.”

Supervisors Ron and Fisher were trying to identify the most valuable employees on their respective teams: they planned to create strategies to re-recruit them to stay through these uncertain times.

After about ten minutes of remembering challenges they’d faced while leading teams through transitions, they had collected quite a list of qualities they had valued in employees during those times:

  • They have great ideas or at least a steady stream of ideas to offer
  • They don’t offer change just to scratch an itch because they like new stuff
  • They willingly try to use the new technologies or processes
  • They are hungry to succeed so they are easy to engage in effective contributions
  • They share realities with leaders, even if they suspect leaders aren’t eager to hear the whole truth
  • They ask difficult questions
  • They are willing to expose what everyone else is hiding
  • They have energy to pursue goals and plans that take months to accomplish
  • They punch holes in ideas and plans… respectfully

“I get the idea,” Fisher said as he reviewed the list.  “I have to be honest with myself about what I really need out of employees to get through the rough times – and not just consider the obvious traits that make my day-to-day smooth sailing.”

“Yes,” Ron summarized.  “Not all of our work is about surviving rapids like the chaos of changes, but having people with skills to help keep the boat upright through those times can be critical.  So as I look at that core group of people I want to target ‘keeping,’ I want to make sure I have some agents of change.

“I want to share one more concept that has helped me in identifying those employees.  Geoffrey Moore talks about the population’s typical response to new technology as he describes the critical timing of launching a product.  In Crossing the Chasm, he explains that your product may be doomed to that ‘chasm’ if you don’t engage the rare birds who are technology innovators (2.5%) and early adapters (13.5%).  Not all of our changes involve technology, but the same principle applies: avoid filling the keeper list with the 50% who are late adapters or laggers – unless they outshine their team members in other critical areas.
“From the ‘change curve’ we know that productivity drops at the introduction of every changeSo identifying the kinds of employees who will promote the adoption of new ways quickly is judicious.  As leaders, our goal is to keep that productivity drop to a minimum and short-lived!”

Reality: Engaging employees means paying attention to more than performance statistics; we all know positive statistics turn quickly to dust if the ways they get those numbers erodes the team’s energy or time.  So our ‘keeper’ evaluation includes both statistics and essential behaviors.  Also critical to the ‘keeper’ equation is listening for their zeal, values, priorities, ideas and disappointments: these can help us understand their motivations. Engaging employees requires awareness of their motivations, behavior and performance.  It is easiest to engage employees whose satisfaction in these areas aligns with the contributions your team needs from them – KEEP THOSE PLAYERS!

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