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How to unleash the potential of average performers

'Coach Kriengsak, I just reread the book It's Not the How or the What but the Who: Succeed by Surrounding Yourself with the Best by Claudio Fernández-Aráoz," Narong tells me. "The author wrote, 'At most companies, people spend 2% of their time recruiting and 75% managing their recruiting mistakes.'

"I totally agree with this. Currently 10% of my team are top performers, 80% are average and the rest are underperformers. I believe that the average 80% are the result of poor recruitment in the past.

"I can't go back in time to change our past recruitment practices. I have to deal with current and future environments and that's really challenging. My question is, how can I maximise the potential of all those average performers?"

"Khun Narong, how do you classify these 80%?"

"I would place them in three categories:

High potential and low willingness -- let's call them HL;

Low potential and high willingness or LH;.

Low potential and low willingness or LL."

"What about the high potential and high willingness?"

"Those are already among the top 10% of performers."

I nod. "Khun Narong, among your average performers, what's the percentage of each category?"

"I would say the HL make up 50%, LH 30% and LL 20%."

"Which group do you want to focus on at the moment?"

"Coach, those with high potential and low willingness are approximately 50% of the average performers so that makes up 40% of our total workforce. If I could unleash their potential, it would have a significant positive impact on our organisation."

"Okay, now you have a target group to deal with. What are the potential causes of what you see as low willingness?"

"I can think of four reasons:

They are in the wrong position.

They have no ambition.

They value family as their top priority over work.

They don't want to grow because they don't like to play politics and deal with pressure from work."

"What solutions can you think of for each reason?"

"For those in the wrong position, I can create a policy to encourage people to voluntarily rotate to other roles that best fit their strengths. I'll tell our people that in the current tough environment, we need to be as many people as possible to be at their best.

"I can see a number of people who are capable but not in positions that are the best fit for their strengths. Hence, I'd like them to declare their intentions by identifying up to three positions they would like to consider in order to maximise their strengths. Then, we'll set up a committee to allocate them.

"The people in this category are approximately 20% of our workforce. Let's assume that half of them are willing or able to rotate. That would produce a big increase in engagement. Eventually, there will be better productivity overall.

"For people who have no ambition, I'll stress to them that they could be better in their current roles even if they have no ambition for the promotion. A lot of people misunderstand that if they don't want to be promoted, then all they need to do in their current positions is deliver average quality. Why bother to deliver top quality?

"I think that kind of attitude is a lose-lose for everyone. They may not be aware that they are also loosing as well. Because deep down inside, they know that if they can deliver better quality and they don't, they will have less self-respect. If you possess less self-respect it will damage your self-esteem. And low self-esteem can be a cause of more troubling psychological disorders. Hence, there's a boomerang effect that comes back on them.

"I will recommend that they adopt a new way of thinking. They don't need to be ambitious for themselves, but they will have to be ambitious for the greater good of the organisation. We need to be at our best for our customers, shareholders, our friends and eventually for the organisation.

"For those who value their family time highly, the ones who leave the office on time and don't stay late like the others, I can't force them to change their values. The only request I will make is that they be at their best during their eight hours in the office by being as productive and accountable as they can.

"For the last group, the ones who are uncomfortable with office politics, I won't ask them to grow but I think what I just described also applies to them."

"That's good. What's next?"

"Coach, this is just a theory. I need to discuss with my direct reports how we can put these ideas into practice."

"That's good, Khun Narong. Let's follow up in our next session."

Kriengsak Niratpattanasai provides executive coaching in leadership and diversity management under the brand TheCoach. He can be reached at Daily inspirational quotations can be found on his Facebook fan page: Previous articles are archived at

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