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The Case For Coaching: How To Nurture and Create Top Performers

Want to build a highly effective team? Learn how the right professional development tool can help any organization maximize the potential of current hires and decrease friction in all areas.

In most organizations, excellence is anything but evenly distributed. 

Studies suggest a staggering 80% of work is done by 20% of employees.1 

With that in mind, it’s understandable that an organization would be keenly interested in learning how to keep more of their top performers on board. However, a smart organization would invest, not only resources to retain the cream of the crop, but also training that can potentially elevate their “average” workers performance. 

In this article, we’ll tackle two topics: First, what keeps this talented “talented twenty percent” engaged and dedicated? And second, what can forward-thinking companies do right now to elevate the performance of their workforce? 

The Recipe For Top Performance

To start, let’s clarify what we mean when we say “top performers.”

 A top performer, by definition, is someone who is “demonstrably better than their peers at achieving the kinds of business results you require, while working in an environment similar to your own.”2

In most organizations, top performers are typically not hard to spot. Not only are they head and shoulders above the rest — they’re better by a wide margin. Surveys suggest that many tend to be roughly four times as productive as the average employee.3  In some cases, top-of-the-top performers may achieve as much as 12 times more than their counterparts.4 

Generally, you’ll find these individuals are: 

  • Self-motivated 
  • Good decision-makers when it comes to their work & team members
  • Understanding of business needs
  • Good at developing & implementing new ideas
  • Exceptional at professional relationships

Naturally, sourcing these rare unicorns can be expensive. How do you ensure you keep them on board as long as possible? There are the benefits that you’d guess offhand, such as adequate pay, well-trained management, and engaging work. However, there’s one draw that looms larger than the rest when it comes to top performers: 

Opportunities for development. 

Studies suggest that if you’re going to hold on to your top performers, you must provide them with a path for growth. In fact, around two-thirds say they’ve left a position because of lack of opportunity.5  Without a system that encourages employees to pursue their strengths in a way that’s aligned with metrics and HR policies, such high-value individuals may quickly become disengaged or even frustrated. 

Ironically, one of the most effective methods for retaining top performers is also the key to creating them in the first place. According to one study, over 93 percent of workers say they would stay at a company if it provided them with opportunities for development.6

Clearly, the value of providing your team with opportunities to grow cannot be understated. But how do you provide a program that meets the needs of both groups? 

The answer lies in modern psychology. 

 

Coaching and Creating Top Performers With The Principles of Neuroplasticity

 

Man in jacket next to a projector

Top performance is as much a mindset as it is a skillset.  

In the past few decades, advancements in cognitive behavioral science have taught us that our thoughts not only have the power to shape our personal lives, but also our work lives. 

If you’ve ever taken a course in psychology, you might be familiar with the phrase neuroplasticity. If not, here’s a brief overview

The term is a mashup of two words: “neural”, or relating to the nervous system, and “plasticity”, describing the ability or capacity to change. 

Thus, neuroplasticity is “the capacity of nerve cells to biologically adapt to circumstances—to respond to stimulation by generating new tendrils of connection (synapses) to other nerve cells, and to respond to deprivation and excess stress by weakening connections.” 

This “plasticity” of one’s thought processes is the key to guiding underperforming but willing persons to think and act like top performers and top performers into even better performers. How do you activate it? With the right professional development tool – an internal coaching program that provides: 

1. Help to objectively understand current performance and thinking. 

Change starts with self-awareness. Using a quantitative diagnostic, employers can help their workers objectively measure their performance and establish a baseline to see progress. Thus, employees who are willing to make behavioral changes can now have the knowledge they need to continue improving in any area they choose. 

2. Accountable reinforcement. 

This second step is key to creating and maintaining new, more productive thinking patterns. Using cognitive-behavioral techniques, new thinking patterns can be developed by writing down, visualizing, saying, and conscientiously applying the new thoughts. Eventually, these practiced new thoughts create stronger, default neural pathways so they become the default thinking patterns and take the place of the old, undesirable ones.

These new thinking patterns or thought shifts can be developed on one’s own, with a personal coach, or with an e-coaching system. The new thinking patterns start to take root as you practice several times each day over the course of a few weeks.   With any behavioral change process, it is humanly hard to stick to it without some outside encouragement and support. A professional development tool that encourages an accountability system, partner, or community can help keep you motivated and moving forward because most of us will do the required work just to avoid admitting failure to other people! 

3. Ongoing monitoring and support. 

As your brain training progresses, you should feel less stressed, more confident, and achieve more satisfying results – especially when dealing with other people. Here again, a quantitative checkpoint will let you fully measure and appreciate your success.   However, no matter how strong the neural pathways are then, they need to be kept in condition. Neural pathways are just like muscles: You must use them, so you don’t lose them! Therefore, ongoing practice, support, and monitoring are critical to long-term success. Your accountability system, coach, or community can again be a critical part to keep your potential activated.

But how effective is an internal coaching as a professional development tool, really? 

According to Sraban Mukherjee’s internal coaching study designed to encourage better performance in management, participants reported gains in7: 

Interpersonal skills: 60% noted they had become more effective in dealing with and understanding their peers and others in the organization in terms of their assumptions, emotions, beliefs, attitude and aspirations and how these factors were affecting their performance. (Mukherjee, 2012) 

Listening skills: 39% of respondents reported that the coaching journey had helped them to become better listeners, which they thought would make them more effective in dealing with others. (Mukherjee, 2012)  

Increased confidence: Managers reported having developed higher levels of confidence in dealing with seniors, subordinates and significant others, leading to improved leadership. 

Work-life balance: 33% of the managers reported that their work-life balance had improved during the program. (Mukherjee, 2012) 

Broader vision: 15% of managers reported that their overall vision had broadened and they could clearly understand how they could contribute to the strategic issues of the organization. (Mukherjee, 2012) 

Harnessing the power of root thinking for change

Could your organization use an diagnostic-based system for unlocking human potential? 

You may want to start your search with Think-XTM 

Using Think-X Discover, a patented, validated, and EEOC-compliant diagnostic, the Think-X system allows participants to improve their performance with a personalized report and perfectly tailored, technology- assisted coaching program. Users can work independently, in a small group, or with a Think-X Certified Coach.

There are also options for ongoing self-development support. Using videos, articles, interactive discussions, and virtual events, Think Xchange provides on-demand support throughout everyone’s self-development journey. 

 

Here’s what some proponents of Think-X had to say: 

 

“It’s a win/win in each column: Diagnostic tools combined with great coaching for someone looking to improve.”
Lew Walker, SPHR, Principal, KL HR advisors

“Think-X gives everyone a systematic way to level up their thinking to enable more productive behavior and results.”​
Beth Davis​, Founder, The Llewellin Groups, LLC

“I now believe that people can change from any state…Think-X helps because it gives a viewpoint of definable performance drivers to set goals to.  These are the keys to get from where you are to where you want to be. Most people never get the tools to make change happen.​”
Jim E.​, Zebra Technologies

 

To learn more about Think-X’s professional development tools, click here.

 

  1. Mankins, M. (2014, May). How To Hire More Top Performers. Harvard Business Review. 
  2. Corlett, B. (2014, October 04). What Is A Top Performer. blog.staffingadvisors.com. 
  3. Mankins, M. (2014, May). How To Hire More Top Performers. Harvard Business Review. 
  4. Stack, L. (2014, March 4). 5 Things To Know About High Performers. BizJournals. 
  5. Watkins, H. (2020, April 8). 10 Surprising Reasons Why Top Performers Leave a Company. SolvoGlobal.com. 
  6. Biro, M. (2018, July 23). Developing Your Employees Is The Key To Retention — Here Are 4 Smart Ways To Start. Forbes. 
  7. Mukherjee, S. (2012, August). Does Coaching Transform Coaches? A Case Study of Internal Coaching. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, 10(2), 84-85. Oxford Brooks University.

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