More Eagles Part 3: Raise the Altitude. Focus on your Eagles First

This is part 3 in a series describing solutions and tactics to one of the greatest challenges that faces every organization- recruiting, retaining, and developing the best talent -  and for getting the most productivity out of them to your mutual benefit.  In short, how to get more eagles and less ducks.











Last time we set the foundation for recharging your group to turn them into a high-performance team. First, you have to be working for a good company, that has a good value proposition and values people. If you don’t work for a good company, one that has features and benefits that set you apart, that even the best leader will be limited by the ceiling of their company. Why would you work for a duck company? Either help them to improve or move on.

The 2nd foundational element is to look at yourself. You attract who you are. If you are not a highflying eagle, then you will never recruit or retain many Eagles. So, I gave you some steps to assessing yourself and committing to raising your game. So now what?

A recent client asked me, “Mike, once you have identified some of your team members as cancers or ducks, what do you do? Can they be changed or saved, or do you just have to let them go? And how do you address them about their status/performance anyway?” This is a great question and one that I will answer in my next post. But the most important question at this point is “how do I take care of my Eagles and develop my eaglets as my 1st priority?”. These are the people who are your leading contributors and have the most immediate upside. Too many organizations focus 80% of their energy and resources on their problem or nonproductive people and ignore their best. They deserve your 1st and best attention, not your leftovers.

Here are some steps to protect and elevate them while at the same time starting the process of addressing the ducks and cancers.

1. Share the Jack Welch performance model with your team -  don’t try to change  your style or  philosophy secretly. Have a team meeting and share the base model and the criteria for each performance quadrant. Announce that you are committed to creating an eagle dominated environment and intend to do whatever it takes to become a highflying eagle leader – from their viewpoint. Ask them for their help in identifying things you can do to better support them. And get them to visualize what it would be like for all of you to work in such an environment. Get them excited that real change, not lip service, is not only possible – but truly coming. this simple pronouncement will change people’s attitudes 20° immediately. Deep down, everyone wants to be an eagle and be part of a winning team.

2.Get them to self assess- share your assessment of yourself as a leader. Possibly you think that you are a low eagle that has room to improve. But tell them that you care more about what they think, and that you will be coming around this week to ask them. Next, get them to identify traits that would indicate an eagle versus a cancer or duck. This discussion will release some pent-up tension in your troops who clearly know where the problems lie. Then asked them to self assess where they are in the model,  and 3 to 4 things they need or could do to improve their performance and attitude to high Eagle. Then you have the foundation to measure them relative to their own criteria, not yours. And get them to assess the overall environment on a 1 to 10 scale.  for example, if they say 6,  then asked them what it would take for us to get to a 9+.  then you can recheck their assessment regularly to see if the changes you are making are having the desired effect.

3. Take responsibility/set a new standard – announce that henceforth, you will be an organization that not only promotes Eagles, but will only accept Eagles. Take responsibility that this has not been the case in the past and that you own it. And state that is your mission to ensure that everyone gets regular performance feedback so that they know where they stand,  that you will do everything in your power to ensure that all eaglets and even other categories get a chance and the support to improve and move to the Eagle quadrant.  In this  test, everyone can get an “A”.

4.  Follow-up- it’s one thing to announce a new standard, and something quite different to actually follow through, enforce the standards, and sustain it. It’s human nature and gravity to get excited about some new idea, and then revert to old habits when the going gets tough. If you haven’t had a history of follow-through, then your team will be skeptical until you do.

5.  Take care of your Eagles 1st –   Immediately start your interviews, starting with those that you have identified as Eagles. Let them know that you think of them as eagles, and they will be appreciative and your biggest allies. You need their advice and support right away, to know what they think of you and that they will back you if you get resistance. Eagles don’t want to fly around ducks and they will be glad that you are raising the bar. And as respected peers, they may be able to help you mentor the eaglets and tactfully advise the ducks and cancers.

6. Support/develop your eaglets-most organizations do a mediocre job of on boarding, training, and supporting new/young people. They simply give them a training manual and brief orientation, and then say “go get them tiger” and see me if you have questions. The new person is excited, but not competent  and their manager is either too busy or they are afraid to ask for help. So they sink or swim, but either way they are not performing at a high level. They have no clear direction on how to become an eagle, and eventually their attitude and altitude suffers. They are at risk of slipping into ducks or cancers, and it’s your fault, your responsibility. To fly, every eaglet needs:

  • a clear roadmap to success
  • a buddy/peer that is safe to go to for advice
  • a mentor/leader that is actively coaching them (if no one else is qualified, then it’s you)
  • regular feedback on how they are doing on their roadmap

if you give your best to your best, you will keep them in your flock, maximize their potential, and attract more like them. Eagles like to fly around other Eagles. If this is the culture, then they will support you when you challenge and hold accountable the ducks  and cancers.

Look soon for part 4 of this series on supercharging your organization by creating an eagle environment that promotes excellence in individuals and teams. In the meantime, to quote the great poet and songwriter Steve Miller,  06 Fly Like An Eagle (click on this link and see your self soaring)

question: do you know who your eagles are?  are you showing them  the love that Eagles deserve? And what are you doing to proactively on board, train, and mentor your eaglets into Eagles?

Quote of the week:  Don’t quack like a duck, soar like an eagle!     Ken Blanchard


One Response to “More Eagles Part 3: Raise the Altitude. Focus on your Eagles First”

  1. Don Yoakum December 25, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

    Doubling down on the Eagles in my life is an approach that now permeates all aspects of what I do. Naturally that also leaves less time for the Ducks (whiners), and the is just the way I like it.