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Squeeze The Toothpaste Higher Up The Tube

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Jan G. van der Hoop, President of HiringSmart™ — our go-to partner for help on how to hire more effectively, will be contributing to this blog on Fridays.  You can reach him directly at 905-338-7961 or

If you continue to squeeze the far end of a tube of toothpaste, the law of diminishing returns will kick in pretty fast. The first couple of squeezes might yield some results, but then not much more will happen.

Performance management is kinda like toothpaste.

In most organizations, performance distribution falls in a traditional bell curve, with 16% in the low performer category, a similar proportion in the high range, and the lion’s share – 68 % who are performing adequately – in the middle. As managers, we often find the majority of our time, effort, resources and patience are commandeered by the 16% at the bottom. And when we work there, the return on the investment is generally marginal at best. It’s exhausting and unrewarding work.

By far and away the biggest returns are to be had by coaching and developing the top performers (who are most often left alone so as not to disturb them) and the big bulge in the middle… even a small improvement by 68% of your workforce will yield a result that will be hard to match by just working the crowd at either end of the curve.

The Coach’s Tip – Move higher up the tube.

  • What shifts do I need to make in how I manage and coach each of my middle and top performers? How can I raise the bar in a way that challenges and motivates each to grow and strive for more?
  • Which of my lower performers really have the potential to move into the middle category, and what will it take? How can I best support the others in transitioning into a role where they can be successful?

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