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Developing Black Belt Employees

Long ago I developed a theory about engagement.

It is based on my own experience operating small businesses – and teaching martial arts. What I found was that most people fall into 3 major categories:

Movers: These guys are your top 20%. They’re fully engaged, creative, resourceful and productive. These are the people who move your organization forward – and they’re always looking for opportunities to move themselves.

This group is usually the most responsive to incentives and opportunities for growth and advancement.

Be sure you have someplace for them to move to! They’ll either move up – or eventually they’ll move out.

Satisfied Employees: Here is your middle 60%. They do the work they’re expected to do – nothing more and nothing less. They’re not a problem and they’re exactly the people you need and want in many roles.

Slackers: This is the bottom 20%.

Slackers are a drain on your organization. They do the most complaining, cause the most trouble and destroy the morale and productivity of everyone around them.

Of course, you don’t hire slackers – they fooled you!

Now get rid of them!

Not only did they fool you, but sometimes you think you’re hiring a Mover only to find out later you hired either another Satisfied Employee or even a Slacker.

Most people are not locked into one category. Given opportunities for training, development and advancement, many people will migrate from Satisfied Employee to the Mover category.

And unfortunately, people who ignore those opportunities usually fall from Movers and Satisfied Employees to Slackers.

An old martial arts fortune cookie says, “The teacher’s responsibility is to teach – it is the student’s responsibility to learn!”

In business this means that individual growth and opportunity is a product of two factors:

  1. Opportunities provided by the organization
  2. The employee’s response to those opportunities

Monitor carefully who responds to the opportunities you provide. You can only train the willing. Watch for who goes the extra mile when you show them the path.

Those who don’t, probably won’t.

Now don’t jump up and fire all your Satisfied Employees! You need them!

Just make sure your expectations align with theirs. Satisfied Employees are not as responsive to professional growth or advancement incentives. Many of them are perfectly happy where they are – as long as they’re treated fairly.

I learned long ago that I can’t drag anyone to Black Belt – and I can’t make a productive employee out of a Slacker! I learned that the best way to identify and cultivate top performers is to provide opportunities for growth and see who takes full advantage.

Want to find your Black Belt performers? Give them full access to the journey – and see who takes the first step!

Read more posts by Jim Bouchard, a motivational speaker, best-selling author, and influential blogger.