Why Top Performers Get Axed? An Alternate Viewpoint

Puzzle Revisited

On July 20th, 2014, I wrote a blog titled ‘Puzzle’. Thought it might be a good time to revisit. According to Peter Drucker, change leaders should focus on exploiting new opportunities vigorously, but there is a natural bias in any organization towards continuity. For instance, when new and innovative services, products or processes have been developed, the change leader is totally committed to exploiting those opportunities to the fullest with the most able and best performing people in the company being responsible. Drucker believes that the organization must have a willingness to create change, while the organization culture must see change as a positive and desired objective.

However, not all organizations or management shares Drucker’s opinion. If you are a top performer, however, you might want to continue reading..


connected consumer 5What if top performers should stay … and top management should go?


“If change is happening on the outside faster than the inside … the end is in sight.” Jack Welch

“Many companies today appear to be structured for stability … not change.” R/L

Dr. Duff Watkins wrote a rather fascinating opinion piece for LinkedIn — 42,000 people have already read it.


 Why Top Performers Get Axed — 4 Ways to Dodge the Chop



Click on it! Read it! Over 42,000 people have already read it … and that’s an impressive statistic. And for 89% of the workforce — it appears as though he is providing great advice.


Top performers … you may want to read this.


Top performers are most often only satisfied by working in an environment that will allow them to be top performers. They are not there just for a paycheck, no matter how big. They know someone will always pay top money to top performers. Senior level managers, in many instances, unfortunately, do work for the paycheck and / or the ‘golden parachute’.

Top performers do account for a significant corporate performance differentiation. A study by the Corporate Leadership Council of 50,000 employees, 59 organizations, 30 countries and 14 industries showed that 71% of companies with above average employee commitment had greater one-year revenue growth relative to their industry than those with below-average employee commitment.

There are many, many stories of corporate malaise that led to corporate dissolution. The landscape is littered with corporate failures, major brands that no longer exist or that had a once dominate market share.

Many companies today appear to be structured for stability … not change.

Consider, for example, Kodak. founded in 1889, it was the global leader in photography, a leader in innovation and highly respected. Kodak was the company that created mass-market amateur photography, enabled Hollywood movies and home videos, and invented digital photography. Kodak, entered the market late, but still had a robust digital camera business. Kodak also invested heavily in digital photo printing. However management could not envision the converged concept of digital phones and digital cameras … which became Smartphones … which in essence has killed all three Kodak businesses. Remember when the Oscars used to be presented at the Kodak Theater?

Kodak at one time had the top performers in sales, marketing, finance, technology. They were the Silicon Valley giants of their era. What they lost was, over time, was their top performers. The top performers realized that the inventive, risk taking, ‘move forward’ culture that was Kodak … was no more … and moved on or were moved out by stability seeking managers.

What would have happened at Kodak if top performers had stayed and top managers got the Ax? Fujifilm was basically in the same place at the same time. Their management saw the future differently than Kodak’s and took action. Fujifilm reinvented and did not go bankrupt.


Steve Jobs Advice

Steve Jobs probably never fired anyone for being a top performer … although he fired a lot of people for being complacent, it is said. When Jobs came back to Apple, it was not the same Apple he had left. So he had to remake it and re energize it. He rethought the company and what it was really about, then articulated his vision with another great Ad, like the 1984 ad that is classic and considered by many as the best advertisement ever produced. He told his employees and consumers that it was all about people who make a difference and that that was what Apple was really all about. He tells the story better, so click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSP8Mu9S-aU

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do!”

Important: There are a lot of top management teams that are also top performers. You probably know the companies. United Health Care has made a ‘top performer’ culture part of their recruiting effort. Before you can apply for a job, you have to watch a video that features a number of senior management team … emphasizing that their customers and the entire UHC team … expect people that can deal with and are excited about dealing with change  and innovation … are ready to think and share … and for want of a better term … simply like to work at something they like.

Final thoughts:

Repeating —Jack Welch articulated the one fundamental concept that almost all top performers understand, “If change is happening on the outside faster than the inside … the end is in sight.” So sometimes things that we think are bad, like getting the ax, are actually good … if you are in the 11%. You only have so much time to make a difference … or change the world.

Final thought … If your motto is “Just do it!” … best to be with some organization where you can !


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