"I want to share with you a discussion I had last week with one of my CEOs because it's relevant to every level of management. It's what I call the performance paradox talk. A performance paradox is a common leadership challenge. It's when you have an employee that does parts of their job really well, but they underperform and even avoid other key duties. That's the paradox. They're a high-performing underachiever.
You value their strength, so you don't want to lose them, but you need them to step up. And therein lies the dilemma. They're in a comfort zone, but you're not, because you're needing to cover or do without things they should be doing. And in a recession, you don't have the luxury of allowing high-performing underachievers. And let's be honest, chances are you've allowed this. At some level, you've enabled it. The problem is, high performing underachievers have usually enjoyed positive performance appraisals. You may have touched on opportunities for improvement, but I often find that many executives beat around the bush. High-performing underachievers are often inherited and highly regarded by others. That's why you've given them a pass. I get it. But here's the problem:
At some point, their underperformance is going to impact your performance. And here's what happens. Their performance continues to be celebrated while your performance gets called into question.
And it's not their fault. It's yours, because you haven't been honest with them, you haven't developed them, you haven't held them accountable, and you haven't coached them. In fact, you've become what you're trying to fix by doing parts of your job really well but enabling the performance paradox. You've allowed yourself to become a high performing underachiever, and the only person that can fix it is you.
High-performing underachievers tend to know what's expected, and they have the skills needed to grow. But they've had the luxury of procrastination because they're allowed to fall back into their comfort zone. You've got to push high-performing underachievers out of their comfort zone. And that starts with pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
Now, the CEO wasn't crazy about what I had to say because it made him uncomfortable. But here's what I found about high-performing underachievers. They tend to rise to the occasion with clear standards and positive expectations. With the promise of timely feedback, coaching, and support.
High performers become highly motivated to grow outside their current comfort zone. They may need to push. And it's your job to push. And you push your people by pushing yourself."
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