Performance vs. Potential

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Performance vs. Potential

By Terry McKenna, Convenience Store Coaches - 05/07/2013

A recent national poll of U.S. workers found that 44 percent reported putting in as little effort as they could get away with, without being fired. Discretionary effort is a phrase used to describe the gap between how much effort, energy and creativity an employee is putting forth at work, and how much the employee could put forth if he or she so desired.

On a scale of one to 10, where one is sleepwalking and 10 is optimum performance, my client work and research has found the average gap to be two points. Meaning, when employees were honest with themselves, they rated their efforts at a six, but gave themselves an eight in terms of potential. That two-point differential represents a lot of untapped potential that you’re paying for and getting nothing in return.

I’ve found, on average, that the ratio of the contribution of top performers to that of low performers is typically eight to one -- 10 to one in some cases. How about you? By how much do your top performers out produce your low performers?

Low performers often earn about the same amount as top performers. They are typically not confronted on their poor performance, referred to as “dead wood” and left to languish, while top performers carry the load getting frustrated in the process, which leads to turnover.

The bottom 20 percent of any population takes up 80 percent of the time of the people in positions of responsibility. These inequities and performance gaps can and should be reduced, but they’ll be reduced only when convenience store operators and their store managers learn how to step up and hold people accountable. When supervisors hold people accountable, it’s little wonder that employees make measurable improvements.

Handling C Performers
Evaluate your employees on three levels: A, B and C. Your A performers are your best employees: dependable; require little if any of your time; customers love them; and they make money for you by suggestive selling. B performers do their jobs well, but aren’t quite on the same level as your A performers. C performers, on the other hand, aren’t dependable, complain the most and take up most of your time.

Dealing with C performers is painful, which is why most managers avoid it. High-performance companies are 37 percent more likely to take deliberate action with C performers than average-performing companies. High-performance companies take aggressive efforts to replace their C performers with A and B performers.

Keeping C performers in managerial positions lowers the bar for everyone – a definite danger for any company that wants to create a performance-driven culture. C performers hire other C performers and their continued presence discourages the people around them, making the company a less attractive place for highly talented people and calling into question the judgment of senior management.

It’s incredibly demoralizing for the rest of the team if you don’t remove your C performers. It makes management look blind and out of touch.

Taking Action
Here is a five-step action plan to help you effectively manage your C performers.

1. Identify C performers. Evaluate your employees’ job performance using the A, B and C ratings.

2. Agree on a developmental action plan. Jointly develop a plan to help your C performers improve their job performance.

3. Hold managers accountable. If you're a multi-site operator, require your store managers to implement the developmental action plans.

4. Provide regular coaching and feedback. Coach on specific goals and timelines for improving performance, and deliver candid feedback regularly.

5. Improve or remove. For those C performers who don’t improve, cut the cord.

Terry McKenna is principal and co-founder of Convenience Store Coaches & Employee Performance Strategies Inc., where he helps convenience retailers achieve greater financial results by optimizing their workforce. McKenna can be reached at (910) 458-5227 or [email protected] He also maintains a blog at

Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner.