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Uncover hidden talent

Tap full potential of ‘mediocre’ performers

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

You love your stars—the smartest, most reliable employees bound for greatness. They’re low maintenance and make you look good.

It’s the other 90 percent you worry about. They sap your energy, need hand-holding and rarely produce exceptional results. With prodding, they’re capable enough. But deep down you’ve already decided they are destined for mediocrity.

Wait! Before you stamp most of your employees as average, try to unleash their potential. Here’s how:

Look beyond labels. Your early impressions can taint your view. If you conclude Jim is careless because he makes a series of errors in his first month on the job, you may forever label him as such even if he’s truly meticulous.

Give employees another chance. Have a “bashful” worker lead a staff meeting. Ask a “sloppy” technician to devise a neat, organized procedure. Assign an “immature” staffer to cool down a dispute.

Review their credentials. Harness the hidden talents of your staff by matching their skills with the work at hand. Begin by scanning their résumés. Identify education or training programs they’ve completed and leadership they’ve shown, such as running community boards.

Use these clues to assign tasks that build on employees’ interests or expertise. Example: Give an H.R. benefit specialist who spends her weekends training kids to use computers a chance to develop and lead computer training.

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