Managing Steady Performers



I wrote about managing high and low performers in the past. But there is another important group, often forgotten yet so key that they deserve their own post. That is the steady performers.

A steady performer is an employee who meets the expectations for their role consistently, doing a good job, but lacks the ambition and aspirations of the rock star performers. As a result, they often get fewer promotion opportunities and their work is taken for granted.

However, data suggests that companies' long-term performance and survival depends greatly on the commitment and contributions of their B players. They counterbalance the ambitions of high performers that, when carried to an extreme, can destabilise the organisation. In this sense, B players act as grounders for A players.

Generally, steady performers avoid calling attention to themselves and highly value work-life balance. Consequently, even though they care about progression, they don’t pursue it at all costs.

B players are not necessarily less intelligent or skilled than A players. In fact, some B players were A players at some point in their careers but decided to step back. These are particularly valuable, because they understand very well how to work with A players, and still deliver really high quality results. You can read more about B player stereotypes in this article by Thomas J. DeLong and Vineeta Vijayaraghavan.

Steady performers, like any employee, also need nurture and recognition. Otherwise, they’ll begin to see themselves as C players. In fact, many organisations focus more on low and high performers, totally disregarding solid performers. This is a mistake. B players will eventually feel that they’re not valued and start looking for jobs somewhere else.

So, what can we do as managers to support our steady performers? Here are some tips.

  • Find out what motivates them, what are their goals and aspirations, what are they passionate about, what makes them tick, and then create those opportunities for them.

  • Agree on what good looks like, clarify expectations, discuss competencies and highlight how their work maps out to those, so that they can clearly see they’re doing a good job.

  • Clarify how you can best support them, what works for A players might not work for them, so be open to suggestions and ask them to hold you accountable if you don’t support them as you agreed. Also make sure you are dedicating them enough of your time, and not just focusing on your rock stars.

  • Give them flexibility, steady performers value work-life balance very much so use every opportunity to be understanding, empathic and flexible towards their needs.

  • Identify the right opportunities, and don’t push them into something misaligned with their aspirations. Sometimes a promotion means doing a different job, and this might not be what they want.

  • Leverage their skills to support others, B players usually make for excellent teachers and mentors.

  • Praise their work and give them the recognition they deserve.

There you go, hopefully this will help you manage a happy and effective team. Thanks for reading!