Most managers say they know how important it is to have the right people on their staff, but many (or even most) don’t act accordingly.
We've all worked with managers who dance around performance problems rather than addressing them head-on, who don’t focus enough on developing and retaining their best people, and who are way too slow to fire, if they do it at all. These are managers who either underestimate the importance of having the right people or overestimate their own powers to shape their staffers’ performance.
The impact of having a team of high performers is dramatic. I'm not talking about small gains, like 5% or 10% in productivity and effectiveness. I'm talking about massive, startling gains. Research from a range of fields shows that high performers can outpace lower performers by factors of five times or more. In other words, one high performer can have the same impact as five average performers.
You've probably seen this in your own experience. Most people have had an employee who struggled to handle the volume of work and who swore that there was too much work for any one person to juggle ... but when they left, their replacements were able to handle all of the work and then some, to the point that we ended up giving the replacement extra work. I once inherited an employee who had racked up a six-month backlog of work. I replaced him with someone new, who within one month had processed the six-month backlog and was fully caught up.
Having the right person in the job makes a huge difference. And having the wrong person will hold you back tremendously.
What does this mean for managers? You should put significant energy into getting and keeping the right people and moving out the ones who don’t meet that bar. And while it's certainly worth some investment of your time to help develop people who are struggling, ultimately the person needs to meet a high bar, not a medium one. Otherwise, the opportunity cost is just too high.