Star Performers: A New Model for Improving Employee Performance

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

In high school my math teacher taught our class that we were never to “assume” the answer to an equation problem, but to work it out on paper. Yes, and he also taught us the acronym for ASSUME! He was quite right in that assumptions can provide false answers to a given problem or the need for explanation as to how the result was achieved.

As a leader, you begin every day with options on how to improve the performance of your organization. You can’t just assume that today will be better than yesterday or last year. You work through different options: You can shift your strategy, enter new markets, invest in new products, or acquire a competitor. You also can jump on another bandwagon—Six Sigma, Lean manufacturing, advances in cost accounting, off-shoring various business operations, and so forth. All of these alternatives are valid and can drive shareholder value. They also are initially costly to implement and consume significant management attention.

I want to suggest an additional option: a model for driving improved business results by replicating the accomplishments of your star performers. The advantage of this approach is that it is derived from the current performance of your star employee. Therefore you know it is possible within your current structure and culture. It also has the advantage of being cost-effective and quick.


This method is based on capturing the performance profile of your stars and then using this information to quickly enable significant improvement in the results produced by the remainder of your workforce. Along the way, let’s change your ingrained assumptions about the relationship between innate talent and high performance. The correlation is not as significant as you probably assume. I’ll discuss that assumption more in the next blog article.

But for now, let’s start by providing a solid working definition of the term “stars.” Stars are those teams and individuals who consistently produce the greatest results in support of the organization’s strategy and goals. These performers may not have the most talent (potential), but they translate the talent they do have into meaningful outcomes that drive business success.

Take a few minutes right now and start a new file called BlogWithEP. Begin by listing the name(s) of the star performer(s) in your organization. We’ll use that list as we continue this blog series during the next couple of months. 

About the Author
Paul H. Elliott, PhD, is president of Exemplary Performance LLC based in Annapolis, Maryland. Dr. Elliott’s expertise is in the analysis of human performance, the design of interventions that optimize human performance in support of business goals, and strategies for transitioning from training to performance models. Dr. Elliott assists organizations in performance analysis, instructional design, product and process launch support, design of advanced training systems, and the design and implementation of integrated performance interventions. Co-author of Exemplary Performance: Driving Business Results by Benchmarking Your Star Performers (Jossey-Bass, March 2013), Dr. Elliott offers business leaders, human resources professionals, and organization development practitioners the tools and processes to identify star performers, capture the high performance attributes of these employees, and disseminate this valuable information throughout the organization.
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