The Risk of Being the Top

According to author Francesca Gino, you are in danger if you’re the top performer of your team.  Top performers are usually rewarded with accolades, but there may be a worrisome underbelly of the public recognition, for in reality, the top may be a lonely place.  Isolation frequently results combined with resentments from other team members.

Research reveals that top performers produce 20 to 30 times more than the average employee in their fields.

Additional negative consequences can include:

  • Peers try to undermine the top team member’s effective work.
  • Moderate performing team members punish the top performer.
  • Peers dislike appearing lazy in comparison.
  • Research reveals the more collaborative a team is, the more they disrespect the top performer.

However, on a more hopeful note, if resources provided for or earned by the top team member are shared with the other team members, they often support the high performer. Managers also can set parameters encouraging team members to collaborate well with the high performer.  They also can recognize signs of burnout, isolation, dissatisfaction, disengagement in the top team member, and can intervene if necessary including EAP or clinical referrals.

So, it seems that a successful team can be enhanced by a peak performing member if the limelight is shared with the other team members in some way.


Enjoy the day!



The Problem with Being a Top Performer. Francesca Gina. Scientific American. July 5, 2017.

Responding to a Struggling Team Member with Empathy and Development

According to Amy Gallo, it is vital to respond to unexplained underperformance of a new team member with some of the following concrete steps.  I have added some more of our steps regarding empathy and development that may help achieve more adaptive outcomes for all:

  • Never allow challenges in performance go unaddressed – or the situation will likely grow worse.
  • Ask the individual what they think is causing the underperformance.
  • Investigate what is causing the problem – do they need more training or are they unmotivated? Offer more training and development meetings so it’s not just the underperformer’s problem alone.  If they don’t respond to more attention, then it is likely to be more the team member’s issue.
  • Ask other team members what they think is going on and how things can be improved.
  • Invite the underperformer to make suggestions for correction. If they don’t make any or sufficient improvements, then there likely is an intractable underperformance issue.
  • Make a plan to address the underperformance.
  • Regularly monitor their progress.
  • Discuss the problem with the client and their supervisor.
  • If things don’t get better, start to discuss potential consequences to the low performer.
  • Praise and reward good deeds, even when most of the underperformance continues (i.e., frequent errors, falling behind on tasks, or refusal to do tasks).
  • Follow up with the individual regularly. See if they are making any improvements. You might meet with them 3-5 times per week instead of weekly.  Make suggestions regarding task and time management.
  • Pay attention if the team member keeps their word – if they agree to make positive changes in an area of their performance and then see if they do it.
  • If there are no signs of real progress over time, consider involving human resources. You may need to take further action such as a formal performance improvement plan.
  • Don’t be surprised if at some point the employee gives notice of their leaving the organization as well. Even though this is not the desired outcome of raising performance, their decision frees the organization to find a more compatible team member.
  • It is normal to have feelings of resentment regarding having spent more time and money on the ramped-up training and development. Sometimes one can feel betrayed by the employee not keeping their word or by not doing the job they promised to do.  I find one can practice mindfulness and shift the thoughts to being appreciative of the optimized collateral results that came from the ramped-up training and development.  For example, you may have developed a new system that benefits future team members or you may have completed a project that will benefit the organization.
  • Think about what signs may have been missed during the hiring process.
  • When you go on and hire a successful employee, you may realize that it was as simple as hiring the right person for the job.


Enjoy the day.



How to Help an Underperformer by Amy Gallo

Harvard Business Review.  June 23, 2014.


Wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

It is a time for each of us to express gratitude for any aspects of life that bring us joy.

Our country is now 241 years old!  Together, we share a rich and varied evolution of this nation. Through twists and turns we have evolved into a nation that has grown more sophisticated and respectful of all citizens – at least according to our laws.

One recent Link recommended seeing your biggest challenge as simple and then simply doing your best at getting it done (The one about the boxer). Then while walking down the street in Chicago a few weeks back, I snapped a photo of Anne Klein’s marketing campaign poster saying in large print: “I want to live in a world where people understand that for them to be free, everyone has to be free.”

For adults only, you might consider downloading the award-winning television series “The Handmaid’s Tale” on Hulu. It stars Elisabeth Moss, (from AMC’s Mad Men), in a terrifying depiction of what can happen to the United States if step-by-step it becomes a totalitarian society.  This series will speak for itself.  It offers a painful journey inviting the viewer to realize the consequences of not safeguarding both our individual freedom and everyone’s freedom.


Enjoy the holiday and safe travels if you are on the road!



Wearing Recovery Like a Proud Badge of Honor

23 million people are currently in recovery. Fay Zenoff, executive director of the Center for Open Recovery, a Bay Area nonprofit, is promoting a radical idea – that people in recovery could be open and then can actually be of greater assistance to those still suffering from the disease.

President Trump’s opioid commission during the past month suggested that the government battle addiction by linking with private and nonprofit groups on a national media campaign similar to those launched years ago during the AIDs crisis.

The need has never been greater. 21 million Americans suffer from substance abuse. An average of 175 people die from overdoses every day.

Zenoff suggests people simply say, “I’m in recovery.”

One in three American households have a family member in active addiction or lost to recovery. Very few families are spared.

What are your thoughts about reducing the stigma of addictions and fostering recovery?


Enjoy the day.



Let’s Open Up About Addiction and Recovery by Laura Hilgers

New York Times, Opinion Column, November 5, 2017.

Millennials Weigh in on Parenting

More than 82% of children born each year are born to Millennial mothers. While they parent in greater numbers, Millennials are actually introducing parenting innovations. One mother developed an app for breastfeeding because many of the existing one’s were built by fathers.

Because of Google, Millennial parents feel overwhelmed by parenting, but at the same time they know more about development than prior generations.  However, they also feel harshly judged by others as they sometimes create social media profiles for their babies before or right after the birth.

A big change for Millennial couples is that young fathers regard being involved with their children as very positive masculine behavior.

Many Millennial parents don’t have much money so often turn to multiple jobs and frequently get financial assistance from parents.

Four in ten Millennials married since 2010 have a spouse who is from a different religious group. In addition, many Millennials decide not to practice their religion of birth.

Millennials believe they are having kids while everything is unsettled in their lives.  This is different than they had hoped.

What do you think of Millennials as a group?  What about as parents?


Enjoy the day.



Millennials Put Their Stamp on Parenting by Bruce Feiler

New York Times, This Life Column, November 5, 2017.

Keep it Simple While Bleeding and Coming Back

At times, leadership wisdom is written into film scripts. One example is from a 2016 film called Bleed for This starring Miles Teller and Aaron Eckhart. The film is based on a true story of the boxer Vinny Pazienza. The story comes from his amazing comeback after a serious automobile accident resulting in a broken neck. Against all odds, Pazienza came back to beat Roberto Duran twice.

Here are some of the lines from the movie regarding how someone can achieve a nearly impossible goal:

  • A reporter asks Pazienza: “What’s the truth?” (regarding his success in beating the great Roberto Duran).
  • Pazienza says: “I had a lot of help.” (Family, friends, and his trainer of course)
  • “Filled with promises when most turn out to be lies, you can’t rely on anyone,” he adds.
  • “The biggest lie they tell over and over again to get me to give up is – ‘It’s not that simple Vinnie.’ ”
  • “So, what’s the truth?” the reporter repeats.
  • Vinnie gives his final answer: “That it is.”
  • The boxer adds, “That if you just do the thing that they tell you you can’t – then it’s done. You realize it is that simple, and it always was.”

Now that’s wisdom about simplicity and goal completion.  It always was and always will be.

What helps you complete a challenging goal?


Enjoy your day.



Bleed for This.  Starring Miles Teller.  2016 Film made by Open Road Films. Written and directed by Ben Younger.

Hidden Agendas When It Comes to a Definition of Diversity

Last week, I wrote TheLink about Alison Beard’s HBR article regarding a new assessment tool that looked at the biology behind different types of personality styles.  I was interested in the new method of looking at the characteristics of team members.  Then I read a New York Times Op-Ed (linked below) by Bari A. Williams, and was surprised to learn that an approach like Beard’s can be used by industries like tech to “re-set” the definition of diversity to alter criteria to include white men with different cognitive styles.  This odd definition was actually stated by a vice president of diversity at Apple, Denise Young Smith, and went on to cause an uproar on the internet.  Ms. Smith went on to correct herself: “Understanding that diversity includes women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and all underrepresented minorities.”

But, author Bari Williams adds that her concern is that this new concept of “cognitive diversity” is catching on in the tech industry.  Google calls this new definition: “viewpoint diversity.” Little did I realize, before reading Williams’ Op-Ed, that Beard’s work can now help open the door and pave the road for industries to ignore the situation of marginalized people. Beard’s research seemed so avant-garde. I was mistaken.

What do you think?  What is your definition of diversity and inclusion?


Enjoy the day.



Diversity is Not in Your Head By Bari A. Williams

New York Times, Op-Ed, October 17, 2017

Mind Styles Research Supports Complementary Team Members

Helen Fisher notes that personality styles affect relationships, including team relationships. Her questionnaires are seen by some as a new and exciting disruptive form of a personality test. Her findings are based on brain chemistry.

Her survey is based on two areas:

·     Culture is influenced from external input during the life span, and

·     Temperament comes from constitutional genes, hormones, and neurotransmitters. Her field of study is how personality is linked to many of these internal factors.

People who are dopamine system expressers are curious, creative, and flexible. Those who express serotonin are social, risk-averse and want to belong. Those who express testosterone are direct and assertive and are drawn to analytics and rules like engineering, music, and IT. Those expressing estrogen/oxytocin are intuitive, empathetic, and long-term thinkers – have good verbal and social skills.

The amazing thing about this work is that with these new methods, looking at qualities of a person can be less binary and more like concurrent “volume controls” that can be turned up or down for each individual in these four basic areas. So, if a team member is risk-averse, this is not a weakness but is based on having a stronger serotonin system. Such a person also fosters more team connections.

It turns out that diversity of temperament is very valuable for higher team performance. This is very different or additive to our current understanding of diversity – and Fisher favors a team of complements of temperament. The conservative serotonin expresser is compatible to exploring dopamine expressers. It also explains why someone can be both extroverted and introverted, which past tests could not explain well.

Her work also shows how people from different parts of the globe can have genetic predisposition to different temperament systems. So, entire countries and organizations can take on specific temperaments.

There may be gender difference associated with high energy testosterone and greater listening with estrogen. However, since each of us have the array of the four systems, the model does better at explaining a more nuanced description of personality than more “all or nothing” theories from the past.

Please read the article and see if you like this new thinking about personality and complements on teams vs. positive and negative traits holding up to your scrutiny.


Enjoy the day.


If You Understand How the Brain Works, You Can Reach Anyone

By Alison Beard in conversation with biological anthropologist Helen Fisher

Harvard Business Review March-April 2017, pages 60-62


Simultaneous Low Intensity Exercise Helps Learning Last


Two studies have looked at the link of exercise and learning.  One study compared learning among 81 participants in 3 scenarios: after sitting quietly for 30 minutes, after gently biking for 30 minutes, and the third group during biking with mild intensity for 30 minutes. The third group (learning while biking) did best on short-term and long-term learning.

Another study found different results in two groups of only 11 participants. The single group sat quietly for 30 minutes while learning and then the next day exercised intensely for 30 minutes while learning.  Short-term learning was best in the sitting group, but there was no difference found in long-term recall.

One expert suggested that if you have an exam in a few hours, sit quietly as you study for short term recall.  If your exam is the next day, then studying during mild intensity might be a good idea to try.

What do you think?  Maybe we should all do this experiment. Learning during exercise is a form of multi-tasking which, while inefficient during a high intensity workout, has been found to optimize learning when simultaneously carried out at a mild intensity.  Perhaps testing out the author’s finding is worth a shot. Sit on that stationary bike in your basement as you study for an exam?


Enjoy your day.



How Exercise Can Help Us Learn by Gretchen Reynolds

New York Times, August 7, 2013

Goals for a Strong Heart in the Fall and Winter Seasons

In 2010, experts from the American Heart Association identified seven key behaviors that can optimize and protect heart health:

  1. Exercise
  2. Eat right
  3. Lower blood pressure
  4. Lower your cholesterol
  5. Know your blood sugar
  6. Maintain a healthy weight
  7. Don’t smoke

Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, representing the American Heart Association, says this list of 7 actions above is the closest medicine we have to achieving the mythical “Fountain of Youth.”

He emphasizes the following tips:

  • Get regular exercise – Both aerobic and resistance training and even short workouts help (i.e. calisthenics, push ups and sit-ups, walking stairs at work, walking around the neighborhood).
  • Avoid high blood pressure – Lose weight, watch salt and sugar intake, etc.
  • Know and lower your cholesterol levels (HDL, LDL, and triglycerides) – Eat fatty fish, nuts, tofu, fruit, olive oil, beans, vegetables, and reduce carbohydrate intake.
  • Lower blood sugar – Get a good night’s sleep, reduce extra pounds, lower alcohol intake, and follow your fasting blood sugar with your PCP, etc.
  • Eat healthy food – Eat fruits, vegetables, seafood, yogurt, organic foods, olive oil, etc. and avoid sodas, fruit juices, pasta, bread, processed meats, and trans fats, etc.
  • Don’t smoke – Quitting will immediately lower your risk of heart disease by up to 50 percent
  • Get a dog –It keeps you moving while you are loving and being loved.
  • Reduce stress in your life and work – Chronic mental and emotional stress takes a major toll on your heart.
  • Meditate – Evidence shows that meditating can blunt the body’s maladaptive response to stress.
  • Go regularly to your dentist – Studies have found that gum disease increases the risk of heart disease by 24 to 34 percent.
  • Lower alcohol intake – If going to drink alcohol, drink red wine in moderation – it raises HDL cholesterol, the healthy kind.
  • Walk in nature – Studies show that walking in nature can lead to benefits such as lower blood pressure and lower stress hormones.


Based on the heart-healthy conclusions above from the American Heart Association, which ones are you willing to include in your wellness regimen?  You might want to tape this on your fridge!

Enjoy the day!


7 Habits for a Healthy Heart by Anahad O’Connor, New York Times, Well Column, September 28, 2017.



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