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High Performers Suffer the Most

Lesson #1 from Kilimanjaro

High performers suffer the most when put together with medium and low performers.

I know we like this equal and "everyone can be whoever they want to be" social justice warrior narrative so people feel good about themselves, but this is just not true.

People have different abilities, and when put in a situation where their ability doesn't match the task, they immediately become low performers. We all have those areas. Put me in a math competition, and you would ask, "How stupid is she?" :-)

To keep the team together, we put the slowest at the front. It is a strategy we used in EBC, too however, you cannot reinforce it for too long. High performers start to get demotivated, complain, and eventually break away (rebel), forming a new group.

This happens in organisations, too. Unfortunately, we force high performers to slow down, adjust to the slow ones, train, and motivate medium and low performers. The result?

Those who focused on helping the low performers despite being high performers did not summit. High performers who stuck together kept the goal in sight and were happy to leave behind even their brother did summit.

I often see this behaviour in organisations. High performers are demotivated by being held back by silly HR policies and old-school mindsets like "you need to go through the ranks and do your time..." They will split from the group and find a new job. They will not be held back at work, in life or in the mountains.

If you don't let people perform according to their ability, they will leave you.

Intellectual high performers are also held back and demotivated by intellectual low performers. For example, those with innovative ideas are held back by those eager to maintain the status quo for not understanding - or wanting to - that things have changed. This is when we say, "Dude, I don't have the time for you to cross the finishing line twenty years later," and they leave the organisation.

The ultimate stubbing in the heart for high performers? Receiving the same reward and appreciation. Now that killed me millions of times at work, but receiving the same certificate for summiting and for trying really got people, including me, pissed off.

I just asked in front of everybody, "Why did I even bother? I could have just stayed in the tent in base camp and gotten the same certificate...."

Differentiate your high performers from the rest and reward them differently. Don't ask them to carry the others on their backs because by doing so, you are holding back the entire organisation and driving your high performers away. It is almost always that those who hop jobs are the high performers. Pay attention to them, they are telling you something.

PS: Pay attention to the complaints of your staff at work. It is almost always about performance. How many times did you hear or say, "How the hell has that person got this job?" There it is....... Watch out, and you will see that the differing level of competence is killing morale and motivation. You cannot have low and medium performers if you want high-performing teams and organisations.

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