Webinar presenter Dr. Jeff Fox answered a number of your questions after his presentation, "Creating, Managing or Becoming Peak Performers." Here are a few of his responses.
Audience Question: Regarding your slide, summary of the psychological profile for peak performers. Do you recall where you got that information from? And I think they are especially interested, is there a book they can look at and dig in each one of those items?
Dr. Jeff Fox: I can't tell you which slide pertains to which one of the references off the top of my head. But if you have a list of references, you'll be able to find that information. And I don't know which one of those references it was. And sometimes it's kind of an amalgamation, so you may not find one spot where that came from. It's actually a kind of amalgamation of the references.
Audience Question: Do you have any suggestions on how to bring up the topic of peak performance strength staff meetings and ways to host professional development meetings on ways to increase peak performance?
Dr. Jeff Fox: I guess a little bit of it depends on the atmosphere you have in your staff meetings. I've had places I've worked where that would be welcome and I had places where it probably wouldn't be. Some places they'd probably ask you, why you're bringing that up. So, it may be best to bring it up first, with whoever's in charge of that staff meeting.
Sometimes I'll ask what agenda items, so I wonder if I'd hit them cold turkey with that. I'd probably go to whoever's in charge. Say, I would like to bring this up, there's a purpose to bringing it up. Because they might look at that, and say, "Are you trying to sabotage me?" It depends on the people you're dealing with, I know people who can take it both ways but, I would lay the groundwork and the foundation first before I did that. And it might be everything's going great, you just want it to go better. Or it might be that you work in an area where things are not going the way they should. So, you want to be able to point to, this is where we are, this is where the standards are, this is what we want to be. So, do your homework on that, and put something together first. I wouldn't bring it up cold turkey, because it didn't give them a chance to kind of prepare for it, either. Everybody is different. I've worked in environments where that would go real good, and I've worked in places where they would say, "Why are you bringing that up?" So, I would talk to the people in charge first and get a feel for that and get their support.
Audience Question: I'm a peak performer, however, my coworker is not. How do I handle this? Working at my peak level means I do much more work than my coworker, he takes advantage of the fact that I am a peak performer and just sits back and lets me do it. Do you have any suggestions?
Dr. Jeff Fox: I'm going to share a couple of quick stories here. First of all, keep on doing what you're doing. Because you're doing what you're doing not because of that person at all. Now, if there's a lot of work being dumped off on you, that's something you're going to have to deal with. I've had people who'd try to do that, "would you take this call for me?" No, you would take your own call. So, maybe being a peak performer doesn't mean I'm going to be a mule for you to put your load on. So, you need to stand your ground on that, and whatever what you think works best. Probably try to make a deal there: if there's a lot of stuff off for you, don't let them do that because you're a peak performer. I've worked in an area where, I literally was doing three times more than everybody on everything, and we were evaluated against each other. I've been called an SOB more than once by co-workers. And I was like, "Really, that's not very nice." I just ignored it. I remember I was in the office one day, and one of the guys, one of the old-timers, said, "Hey that SOB right there is causing us to look bad." My goal was never, ever, to cause anybody to look bad, I just enjoyed my job. I loved doing my job. I felt like what was I doing was important. I wasn't doing it to look good, I don't keep track of everybody else's work, I just love doing what I was doing. I'm not going to let naysayers, and what we used to call bottom-dwellers, make me not do my job.
But another thing, I'm glad you mentioned that, is you're going to have two forces at work in a lot of environments. One is, I used to call them the naysayers and the bottom-dwellers, because they like to grab people and drag them down with them to do the least work they can. And you can have those who are peak performers and you may drive people up, or you may just say, this is what I do, I'm not telling you to do it. I had people come to me and say, whisper to my ear, "you better slow down, or they're going to expect more out of you each year." And I can honestly say, a sergeant never came up to me and say, you need to do more. I actually had a sergeant one day tell me, "You can do lousy, you're still going to get the same evaluation". And I said, "that's okay, I enjoy what I'm doing." So, don't let them abuse you by giving you their work, but don't let them slow you down because of what they're doing. You're doing the right thing, you're not hurting them, and drive on with it.
Audience Question: One thing that management never seems to think about is from the employees perspective, what's in it for me? It seems to me that organizations try to motivate employees but don't really look at those Herzberg or Maslow factors. I'd love for you to comment on that, and to share how can a person address that issue?
Dr. Jeff Fox: One way is, and this is going to sound cliché, is work your way up into that management position and make a difference. Change how that management works. That's your best opportunity to do that. Otherwise, I'm not sure if you can get management to change. I went to a command school many years ago, where I sat there in class and everything they said I believed. I knew it, I believed it. It just reinforced me and it depressed me because I thought, I can't go back and see any of this. If I go back and talk about any of this, they're going to look at me, like, "What's wrong with you? We don't do that". But you know what, I went back and I did it anyway. I was an instructor, I was able to get in front of people, I was able to teach first-line supervisors. I know I made a few people mad, I know some of the old-timers in the room got mad at me because of the things I said. But a majority of people are like, "Yeah, thank god for saying that". If you're not in the position, it's kind of hard really to make them change and understand the things you're talking about. You know that. Now here's another thing. You don't have to be in a formal leadership position to be a leader, a lot of times, informal leaders could be as powerful or more powerful than formal leaders can. So, you may not think you have that sphere of influence, but you probably do. And you can impact people around you. I actually had a guy talk to me one day, I was in court and my box of evidence. I had to carry a box of evidence with me when I go to court and talked to me in the bathroom. He whispered to me, not in a perverted way or anything, he said, "I'm really proud of what you're doing, keep it up". This is a fellow trooper. He wouldn't say that out front in front of everybody because that's too dangerous. So, there's two ways of looking at it. Informally, you keep on doing what you're doing. You make the difference, you change what you can. Or open to the management position, and you make the changes yourself. It might take a while, but you can do it.
Audience Question: How do you address employees who are inconsistent in their results? Sometimes they are peak performers and absolutely exceed expectations, but sometimes they struggle to meet the minimum requirements.
Dr. Jeff Fox: The first thing that comes to my mind is what time period are we talking about. Are there other things that are going on in their life? Is it one year, they're really good, and the next year the whole year, they're bad? Or is it, three months they're doing great, and then there are two weeks when they're not doing great? That's when you might want to talk to the person and say, "Hey, what's going on? Is everything okay with you?". I wouldn't address it as if, "Why aren't you working so hard? Why aren't you doing a great job you were doing?" It could be, " I noticed you haven't been doing what you have been doing, is everything okay at home? Or, are you feeling okay?". They may have some problems. They may be having marital problems, health problems, maybe there's a death in the family. There might be external factors that call them to drip off a little bit. Or maybe they're tired. Maybe you're did something as a supervisor to tick them off, you hit them in the gut or something and now they're having a hard time standing back up. Or is it a continual pattern of work hard, not work hard, work hard, not work hard? I've known people who've done that, and you look at the end result for the year. And go, by the end of the year, I've gotten the work done.
I'll tell you, I had a situation where I went to a meeting, and it was on to the third quarter of the year. A sergeant came up to me and sad, "I've got a person who's working for me, who's only done X amount of work", and it was nothing, I mean it was nothing. And almost three-quarters away into the year, and I say, "Why am I only hearing about this now? Why didn't you put this person under a performance plan?", and no answer. The problem was, the sergeant was barely, he was nowhere near peak performer, he wasn't a very good performer either. And he had a person working for him who wasn't a very good performer and there's another person between them and me. And I said, "You need to address that immediately — you need to put him under a performance plan and deal with it", and he did. Come the end of the year, the guy comes to me, he appeals his merit rating. He said, "My sergeant tells me that he can't do anything about it, I need to come see you to get answers." That's a total cop-out on the sergeant's part. The sergeant was a worse employee than he was, and the guy actually picked it up in the last quarter. Ultimately, the guy sued, he went to court, the attorney for the state called me. He said, "This is what you told him?" I said, "Yep, I told him you could quadruple his work and he's still not doing a very good job. Is that okay?" He said, "Okay, yes that's fine." We're afraid to address things with people. And people are quick to tell you, you can't tell me that, you can't give me a quota. You do have to be careful of quotas. You got to watch out for that. I would look at patterns, try to find out what's going on because more likely there is something going on. Unless it's a continual thing where they'd go I work hard, I won't work hard. It could be things like, maybe they've been tied up in court, maybe it was rainy or snowy while they were working. Maybe they were helping other people. There's a lot of variables to consider here. We need to find out what's going on.
Audience Question: Are there things that we can do to help a previous peak performer recover from burnout?
Dr. Jeff Fox: First thing I will do is I would go back and look at the slide from Steven Covey on Habit number 7, the REs. Those REs are critical. First is the shame that person got to where they were overwhelmed and got burned out. That's why I emphasize so much in this presentation, they don't want to burn out our workhorses, we don't want to beat them to death. Remember those four areas. The spiritual, the emotional, all of those different things. They might get burned out in one more than the other one. We got to be careful with that. There could be an intricate life event that happened that caused somebody to lock up and not do something. It could be something at work, we don't really know about. So, the way to look at all those things, and then remember I told you my sergeant told me, he said, "You could slow down a lot and still be where you are." Because I was doing so much more than what I had to. And I wanted to do it, it was what I wanted to do. I could go on and on about all that stuff but I'm retired now, but I still work hard. I still continue to work hard. But, you have to look at the RE list, and maybe there's something you can do to help them. They've got to keep their work up, they got to get to that acceptable level. But you know what? Maybe decide. I can't keep doing that. They may have made a purposeful decision that I can't be that peak performer I used to be, I'll do my job, I'll do what I have to do, I'll earn my paycheck, but I'm going to dedicate more time. Because remember, it's not just about the job, it's about the family, it's about other things in life, we had to balance all that out. So maybe they didn't have balance. And maybe it's just something they had to readjust to, and we do too. As long as you're doing your job, not everybody's going to be a peak performer forever. And don't push them, remember.
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