Should Top Performers Work Alone?

Should Top Performers Work Alone?

A meme that I ran across this morning on several blogs was “should top performers work alone.”

The answer is, well, it depends.

In the short term, you will always get measurably better results if your best performers can do what they do best – peform.  Clear away the B.S., leave the hand holding and time wasting to lesser contributors.

This works great… until the “indispensible man” is dispensed with by life in the form of an accident, a family emergency / tragedy, or a better offer at a different company.

In the longer term, a team of lesser performers will benefit by having access to the top performers, albeit at the expense of being able to move projects along as quickly by working through groupthink rather than executing at warp speed.  And your risk of having things completely grind to a halt when Mr. or Ms. Can’t-Live-Without is out of the picture is mitigated when they are not the only holder to the keys of your particular kingdom.

But let’s face it – your mediocre employees and contributors, in the majority, will never rise above a certain performance level.  There is a “sweet spot” of indifference vs. motivation that every company, leader, and manager has always striven to identify and exploit so that maximum productivity can be (at least, theoretically) achieved – but rarely attained.

So, my answer to “should top performers work alone” is – absolutely yes.  You as a manager or boss are not so talented as to really believe that you can * coach * personal motivation.  Sure, your attitude can positively or negatively affect your reports and star producers.  But whatever you did (or didn’t do) had zero affect on making your superstars SUPERSTARS.

In short, exploit and utilize these high performers while you can.  Because soon, they will either be your boss or your competitor, but they will definitely not be your subordinate forever.

Spread the knowledge, but don’t “coach down / dumb down” your top talent to try and mistakenly raise the overall talent level of your “team.”



The coming weeks are bringing many changes into my family’s lives – new city, new school, new friends.

All changes bring new challenges and new opportunities.  It’s living through the transition without hating / killing each other that is the tricky part ;-).

We should all be old pros at this moving game.  Since 1989, we have lived in / owned seven different houses, and are about to move into house number eight.  It never really ever gets too much easier, even with repetition – though frequent moves does have the perk of making one clear away the dreck that one accumulates over time.

It’s not that I don’t get attached to houses or places – I do.

While in college, we had a life changing experience – our family home burned to the ground – a total loss.  I was able to recover a few things, but for the most part everything I ever knew, materially, was gone. 

We were extremely fortunate in that everyone got safely out of the house, though sadly we lost our pets. 

Ever since, my attachment to material things has been pretty passe. I like nice things, I appreciate the good things in life – but know that their possession is ephemeral at best.

I’m feeling tremendous loss for the friends we are leaving and for the family that will remain here in Tennessee. 

And I will miss the awesome sunsets over the lake from our front window.

But the house is a place where we sleep – and my home is wherever my wife and two sons are.

And that is something that will never change.

This is Tougher Than I Thought It Would Be

This is Tougher Than I Thought It Would Be

Last night our neighbors immediately to our rear threw an anniversary party for my wife and I.

These neighbors are really much more than neighbors – they are really more like our extended family.

We have been in their weddings, and they have been in ours.  I have known them for going on 30 years, and my wife even longer.  Their kids and grand-kids play with my kids.

In truth, they are closer than our real brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles.

I have been so busy “making hay while the sun shines” for this upcoming move, that I haven’t been thinking about the great things we’ll be leaving behind in Tennessee.  Part of this is defense mechanism, because one realizes soon in this life that good – no, great – friends are a rarity and a treasure.  And our friends are treasures indeed.

Sad as it makes me to leave people that we love, our transitions in life provide us with exciting and life changing opportunities that are to be embraced.  After each of our moves, something great has happened; for example, we adopted each of our sons almost immediately following a move.

Still, after last night, our move this time became much tougher.  Way tougher than I thought it would be.

And that’s a good thing, because it proves I’m still not the cynic that I sometimes believe myself becoming.

July Wrap Up

July Wrap Up

A Pause in the Eye of the Storm

A Pause in the Eye of the Storm

The past couple of weeks (and the next couple, for that matter) have been (and will be) the most active professional and personal periods in my life that I can remember in many years.  Reminds me very much of when I began Sumner Systems Management some dozen years ago.

I’m in process of delivering one high profile gaming app today and starting the second in a set of deliverables due next Friday.  I’m also in the middle of a sixty day engagement with a local web services company that processes millions of transactions a month for medical insurance eligibility, doing a ton of .NET work and learning the ways of (yet another) corporate customer, that while unique in many respects is exactly like every other big company I have done work for.  Enjoyable, but predictable in many respects.

Aside from that, we close on our existing house two weeks from today and close the following day on the house we are buying in Winter Park (Orlando), FL.  Which means a bunch of packing, moving wife, children, belongings, and livelihood 750 miles – all in the all-too-very-near future.

All of this activity has given me pause for reflection on how very fortunate I am for the following:

  • Having a wife and sons who love me even though I have been entirely absent for the most part the last two weeks, and have not been my normal lovable self,
  • Knowing and working with extremely talented and personable people
  • Having work to do, and having the work be both challenging and informative

Quite honestly, the past 20 minutes that I have spent writing this blurb is the longest span of time – other than eating and sleeping – that I have used for something other than billable work in recent memory.

I know that my life is out of balance at the moment, but it is for a very good cause – “storing away the nuts for winter” as it were for the move South and all the things that go along with relocating a family and a business.

I can feel myself growing – even at my advanced age – through this process: professionally, personally, and – dare I utter it? – spiritually.

When we left Florida in 2005, it was immediately following the hurricane season that saw four major storms hit the state – three of which travelled right over where I happened to be at the time.  The analogy of the chaos, noise, and turmoil of those storms – and the false quiet when the storm bands pass – are a great analogy of the place I happen to find myself at the moment.  Time to reflect, but not safe to go outside and relax until the storm totally passes.

I’m looking forward to rejoining the human race in a few weeks.  And seeing what it looks like after the latest storm has passed.

Catching Up

Catching Up

I have been buried under a TON of stuff this week.

The week began with me leaving my house at 4:00 AM to catch a flight to Orlando for the sole purpose of leaving town with a contract on a house – mission accomplished.  I arrived back in Nashville around 11:00 PM.

Tuesday saw us signing a backup contract on our home; Wednesday was the home inspection on our current home; and Thursday was the home inspection on our new (to us!) home.

By day, I have been working on a .NET contract with a large online health care company and by night, working on a set of new Facebook applications to launch this week and next.

Needless to say, I have been a very busy (and pooped!) boy.

I am finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I’m reasonably sure that it is not a train.

I hope to be back on a more even keel by the end of next week and actually taking a little bit of time off.

But for now, I’m still digging into the pile of stuff in front of me – looking for a pony.

Follow Up From SmartMoney Magazine

Follow Up From SmartMoney Magazine

This is what I hope to be the ** last ** update on my appearance in this month’s ( July 2008 ) SmartMoney Magazine.

I was contacted this week by Anne Kadet, the author of the feature article in which I was quoted, “Trophy Kids.”  Anne called after reading my response post here to the article, genuinely upset over the fact that the magazine had gotten my son’s name wrong in the article and wanting my feedback on what my expectations were going into the article and thoughts afterward.

Anne offered a correction on my son’s name, and we had a very open discussion over the article and my reaction to it.

I learned a great deal from the whole experience – positive and negative – and I know I’m better prepared to ask more questions for any similar situation in which I may find myself in the future.

Again, thanks to Anne for being stand up and calling me when she could have just let it ride.

And one final thanks again to SmartMoney for allowing my son and I to have a blast at a fun photo shoot and creating a great memory in the process.

John Schweikert)

For those of you in the market for a great photographer (and a really nice guy), here is John Schweikert’s (the photographer who took the fine photo in the article) contact information:

John Schweikert Photography
113 Westover Park Court
Nashville, Tennessee 37215