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03 Sep. 2013 | Comments (0)

On a recent flight, I was sitting next to an airline pilot deadheading back to Providence and we got to chatting about careers. Tom shared he had been flying with the airline for 13 years. He also flew for the Marines for 15 years before that. I was surprised he left the Marines so early, since five more years would have earned him a pension.

"I had joined as a calling but found myself thinking of it as just a job,” Tom explained. “Further, I missed my son's third birthday and I didn't want to be an absentee father. I love flying, but it was time for a change." Tom had recognized that he had lost his passion, and that the requirements of a Marine pilot deployed in Afghanistan did not align with his life needs. There wasn't anything wrong with Tom; he was simply in the wrong job at the wrong time.

Tom had zeroed in on two of the three factors that make the difference between platinum-level employees and lead-level players who drag the whole organization down with them. The three factors are passion, alignment, and competence. Based on how well an employee “fits” their job, they can be platinum or lead, not because they are “good” or “bad,” but because they are in the right job or the wrong one.

Employees in the right job act with passion. The requirements of the job are in alignment with their personal life, and they are exceptionally competent. (Competency is a natural outgrowth of pairing an individual’s attitude and aptitude with a job that inspires passion and alignment. For additional thoughts on the importance of attitude and aptitude see my July 2013 blog, Hire Based on Attitude, Aptitude, and Chemistry.) The more examples there are of specific passion, alignment, and competence behaviors found within an employee, the closer this employee is to being a platinum, gold, or silver-level employee. The fewer examples of those behaviors, the closer an employee is to being a bronze, tin, or even lead-level employee.

Ideally, an employee would have the insight that Tom, the pilot, had, and initiate a move to a new job on their own. More often than not, the responsibility of making sure the right people are in the right seats falls on management. Employee performance directly relates to their job fit.


Understanding If You're Platinum and Lead

We can apply the Pareto Principle (also known as the 80-20 rule) to employee performance. Twenty percent of your employees typically create 80% of the value, and a different 20% of your employees create 80% of your headaches. Taking this one step further, 20% of the 20% will deliver 80% of the 80%, i.e., 4% of the workforce produces 64% of the positive outcome in your company, and another 4% produces 64% of the negative impact. With these figures in mind, we created the platinum-lead model to characterize the star performers and nonperformers in an organization.

Platinum performers have passion for the job, are exceptionally competent, and their personal needs are perfectly aligned with the requirements of the job. Platinum players are so passionate about what they do that their work becomes a source of personal fulfillment and satisfaction. The knowledge and skills they bring to their work can make them as much as a hundred times more productive than other workers. The requirements of their jobs match their personal needs for a work environment. Their jobs suit them perfectly.

In direct contrast with your platinum performers, the lead workers lack the passion, alignment, and competence required to execute their current jobs. The lead employees may totally lack passion for their jobs for any number of reasons, including burnout, boredom, or a perceived lack of choice. The lead workers are incompetent in their jobs, sometimes because the jobs outgrew them, and the personal needs of lead workers are out of alignment with the needs of the job.

Employees who are lead performers aren’t evil or bad; they are just trapped in the wrong jobs. The 92% of your workforce that lies between the two extremes of platinum and lead have some imperfect mix of passion, alignment, and competence. It is management’s ongoing role to develop people and positions to optimize all three. Individual training and development programs only improve competence. Redefining positions and carefully selecting whom you put in those positions optimizes your use of individual passions and alignments.


View our complete listing of Employee Engagement blogs.

  • About the Author:John W. Myrna

    John W. Myrna

    John Myrna is the author of The Chemistry of Strategy: Strategic Planning for the Not-Yet-Fortune 500 (Global Professional Publishers), available at, Barnes and Noble, and bookstores everyw…

    Full Bio | More from John W. Myrna


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