4th Installment of John Marshall Interview

Interviewer: Clearly there’s a whole new dimension of leadership and management skills that you need if you get these top performers in place right?

John Marshall: Yes.

Interviewer: That’s the interesting thing because what you’ve talked about is the critical pieces to select the right people who have these inherent talents and this inherent motivation which you mentioned are the two biggest predictors of success. What happens if for instance you say “alright, this is great but I have 50 sales people now, I’ve got a team that’s already in place, how do I understand how to create performance with the team I have now?”

John Marshall: It’s a relatively comprehensive answer. This is where I suggest you a 2 x 2 matrix. You know the 4 quadrants.

Interviewer: We’re getting a box then?

John Marshall: Yes.

Interviewer: With a cross through vertically and a cross through horizontally so you have 4 boxes.

John Marshall: Right. If we label the left side talent and good on the top and poor on the bottom and then we put the top effort good or not so good or inconsistent. Now we look at that top left box. We have people that have the talent.

Interviewer: On the top left we have good talent/good effort?

John Marshall: Right. We call them the “golden eagles”. These are people that work hard and they’ve got talent and they usually perform very, very well and get the results. The first question you ask in an organization is “what percentage of your time and resources do you put into that group?” Both direct time and indirect time. That’s a question that we’ll just let sit for a second and then you go down to the bottom left corner where you have people that are limited in talent but they work hard. We call them the “effort eagles” and we ask them the same question, “What percentage of your resources are you putting into that group?” Then we go to the top right and this is the group we’ve been talking about that is very talented but has inconsistent effort. We call them the “talent trap” and again, “what resources are going to them?” Then the bottom right, people that are what we call “miracle traps”. These are people that don’t work hard and they don’t have the talent and we ask “how much time do you put into them?” You can ask teachers this as well because it’s quite interesting if you have kids and you can ask coaches, you can ask managers. What we found is, top coaches in top organizations, put 80% of their resources in the two boxes on the left, the “golden eagles” and the “effort eagles”. What they found is if they put their resources there what happens is all the performance goes up. The people on the right hand side, the ones that get the 20%, if they want coaching time or they want resources of the organization all they have to do is work hard and they start to get it. So, they start to move over.

Interviewer: They recognize that effort is the key?

John Marshall: Correct. They also know that that’s what the organization and the coach is reinforcing. So, if you want coaching time and you want the resources of your organization, it’s an easy thing to do because you control it. You control how hard you work so all you have to do is move over and work hard.Most organizations unfortunately, that are non-performance cultures, are reversed. They put 80% of their time on the right hand side. What they’ll do is they’ll work with the talent trap because they get trapped into “gee this person has an incredible amount of talent...

Interviewer: “...if I could just get them to break out and to realize their potential or whatever.”

John Marshall: Right. Then what happens to your “golden eagles” there, they become frustrated because they start to think “oh this is a weird culture because people that aren’t working hard are getting the time an energy resources in this organization and this coach” so they either stop working hard or leave.

Interviewer: So they stop and move over and become “talent traps”. They stop putting in the effort because they see that’s what’s being rewarded. They go out there and start being slackers or inconsistent or they leave.

John Marshall: It’s like your teeth. If you ignore them they’ll go away.

Interviewer: They become retention problems.

John Marshall: That’s right. We’ve all heard anecdotally that someone created a miracle, someone was down and out and the manager put all this time into them and all of a sudden they turned their life around. The question we always ask then is “How much did you invest and what sort of return did you get and would you do it again?” Most managers go “I would never do it again because it just wasn’t worth the investment of time and energy. It was just so high relative to the return we got.” What we find in performance cultures, the first this is to look at, where are your resources going? What’s the conditioning of the people you have in your system? Are the time and energy and money and resources going into people that are working hard and performing or is it going into people that are inconsistent and their effort pattern and perhaps have inconsistent performance? If you have it where your time is going over into non-performance factors, what you’re creating is a non-performance culture. The second thing then is how do you make sure you get more of the “golden eagles” and the “effort eagles” into your system and that’s where your selection comes. The two ways of changing a culture, number 1 is to start to move your resources into the high effort people and everybody knows it and you have to be very consistent there. If you have where your time is going over into non performance factors what you’re creating is the non performance culture. The second thing then is how do you make sure you get more of the “golden eagles” and the “effort eagles” into your system and that’s where your selection comes. So the two ways of changing a culture are number one, to ensure your resources are into the high effort people and everybody knows it and you have to be very consistent there. Then everybody has a choice in your organization to either join the high effort people and get time, energy and money or stay where they are but they’re not going to get the time, energy and money and probably eventually they’re going to be gone.

Interviewer: They’re going to self-select out?

John Marshall: Correct. Then when you’re selecting new people make sure you’re hiring people that have the potential to be those “golden eagles” or at least the high effort people. What we find and I think you’ve seen this in many, many environments, and I always call it the “Wayne Gretzky Effect”, who was a great hockey player. Wherever he went the team elevated to his level so that he brought up everyone around him. Whereas you’ve seen some people that the team brings them down. The great leaders and the elite athletes and the elite performers in any business, and it doesn’t matter what level of business, whether it’s the front line customer service, they elevate everybody around them. And the system supports that sort of elevation. It’s like a bubble. You know everyone goes up with the bubble.

Interviewer: It’s interesting as I look at these four quadrants, I just think about some of the Hollywood movies that are out. They glorify these “miracle traps”.

John Marshall: Absolutely.

Interviewer: And these miraculous turnarounds, so it kind of glamorizes this effort that’s put into these people that are in the “miracle trap” category.

John Marshall: Ask your kid at school, because I used to work with teachers as well and do a lot of work with teachers in schools, where’s their time going. You would ask a teacher “how did your day go?” and they’d say “brutal”. I’d say “Why was your day brutal” and they’d say “well, Johnny didn’t learn, he was looking out the window.” So 29 kids that were on the left side of the equation were working hard, while one kid over on the right, and the teacher focused not only his or her energies on that kid but their time and thought processes and their own evaluation of how well they were doing. What happens in the school system, unfortunately, is that people learn very early that more resources sometimes go to the people that aren’t working hard than the ones that are. Kids learn that they can work that system very early and get time if they’re over there rather than over here. A lot of the times the really good students, as you know, are either ignored or at least the above average ones, are often ignored in most systems.

Interviewer: That’s a good parenting lesson too. If you’ve got multiple kids, some that are putting in effort and some that aren’t, it’s clearly the same kind of deal.

John Marshall: If you look at the four boxes and the question I always ask is “how do you identify the high potential talent people” and the best way to do that is with a tool. With a psychometric tool and that’s how you decide if you’re on the top row or they bottom row. And then when you get to the effort side, what’s the best way to define whether you’ve got the high effort or the consistent effort. That’s where your structured interview comes in looking at what they’ve done, their habit patterns. If you have a good selection system that first has a good tool that identifies the talent side, the potential side and then a good interviewing process that identifies the habit side, that’s where you start for sure on the left side. Then you say ok, if you can’t fill your company with the “golden eagles” do you bring in the “effort eagles” or the “talent trap” as your number two choice. What we teach our organizations is bring in the “effort eagles” because they are the ones that if you invest in they’re going to get better.

Interviewer: They may never develop into those “golden eagles” but they’re going to produce consistently better results than the “talent trap” people would, which may have spurts right? There’s a lot more peaks and valleys with the “talent traps”?

John Marshall: Right and if you ask your “golden eagles” who they like, the “effort eagles” or if they like the “talent trap” they love the “effort eagles” and try to help them.

Interviewer: They’re going to bend over backwards to try and help support them.

John Marshall: And they hate the people over to the right side because they feel they’re paying the freight and making the money to pay those people that aren’t working hard. That really is where cultures start to break down in terms of performance cultures. If people get upset that they’re doing all the work, and they don’t mind those “effort eagles” because they see them working hard and they really do want to help them, but the ones on the right side that’s the ones that start to destroy cultures.


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