As I write this article the Washington Nationals have the highest batting average in the Major Leagues. This should come as no surprise to Nats fans who already appreciate the work of hitting coach Rick Schu. Under Coach Schu’s tutelage the Nationals have been in the top of nearly all of baseballs hitting categories for the past few years, including 6 players who hit 20 or more homeruns last year.
I watched 2nd baseman Daniel Murphy belt a homerun the other night. After rounding the bases and heading into the dugout the camera crew showed him discussing his hit with teammates, demonstrating his hand moves and discussing the pitch. Murphy was clearly sharing his observations of the pitcher and deconstructing the hit in an effort to help his teammates also be successful. Murphy appears to me, after watching him the past two seasons, to be someone who embraces deliberate practice. Even though he has led the team in many hitting categories, he continues to work on his swing and analyzing his approach, dedicated to achieving big results.
We often assign coaches or build performance improvement plans for employees who aren’t performing well. While I certainly support these efforts and have witnessed many cases where poor performing employees have gone on to great success, the realty is we often don’t give the same attention to employees who are performing well. I have seen many coaches hired to help executives who seem to be struggling in their roles, yet we fail to do so for those that appear to be doing well as people leaders and business managers. While watching Murphy interact with his teammates, it occurred to me that we need performance sustaining plans for the best of workers, not only performance improvement plans for those failing to live up to expectations.
If we fail to create sustainable performance plans, we leave to chance that the quality of our work and our effort will not deplete. One could argue that under performing employees left unchecked will affect the performance of those around them. While true, I would also argue that investing in top talent provides more opportunity to lift the performance of all colleagues and pays higher dividends.