Sometimes it takes an unusual situation to see something obvious, and this happened this morning as I started my warm-up at the gym.
In front of me were about 50 people going through a high-intensity circuit class.
There was a big range of abilities and fitness within the class. Some people were very fit, while others, were struggling right from the start.
What struck me was not how fit people were, but how they approached the class.
Firstly, the fittest people stood out for two reasons.
1. They picked weights that they could handle
2. They kept good form and posture all the way through.
In other words, they picked the right goal and did it well.
The people who struggled the most were the people who picked weights that were far too heavy for them to control. Not only were they getting a bad workout, but there was also a high chance of hurting themselves.
The worst performing people were both overly ambitious and had poor skills.
The instructor spent a lot of her time trying to keep these people safe by telling them to pick a smaller weight and to do the exercise correctly.
This meant that the worst people took up most of her time.
The best performers, who were self-sufficient and the most skilled received hardly any feedback at all.
Moreover, the majority in the middle, who were enthusiastic, but less talented did not get the motivation and advice they needed to improve.
Lessons In A Nutshell
If managers have too many people or things to manage they can't pay attention to anything properly.
The knowledge and skills of the instructor were lost mainly because of the poor project set up.
She had too much to do with too many people of different abilities to get the best out of the vast majority of the group.
The best results came from the people who made sure they had a chance of achieving their goal.
They picked a target which made them work hard but was manageable.
They didn't try to do too much but pushed themselves enough to make progress.
The worst performing / least experienced people take up the majority of the manager's attention because they could cause the most significant problems.
The vast majority of people will underperform because they don't get the time and attention they need.
The best-performing people may continue to do well, but their work, development and improvement are decided by themselves and not directed by their manager.
This may work for a while but, if they don't feel they are being valued, the chances are they will slow down or even worse, leave to find a company that pays attention to and values them.
The instructor looked stressed.
She wanted to do a good job, but couldn't.
She called out encouragement to the rest of the group but could not leave the people who were in danger of hurting themselves.
Therefore, she spent most of her time firefighting, which is crazy when you consider that the purpose of the class was about improving results.
From The Gym to The Office
So while I observed all of this happening at my gym, it is easy to see how it applies to business.
This is a painful example of what I call negative return on investment (ROI).
Positive ROI happens when the improvement in the performance of one person has a positive impact on the performance of the people around them.
A manager working at a higher level will create this in their team and the other managers with which they operate.
However, in this case, the poor design and set up of the class allowed the worst performers to lower the performance of the instructor and the rest of the class as a whole.
How much productivity in your company is accidentally lost because of a negative ROI?
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