Monday, November 26, 2001 Bucks County, Pennsylvania

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Special Feature

What Makes Great Enterprises?
By Peter LaChance, The Quintessence Corporation

The Gallup Organization spent 25 years collecting data to determine what makes successful departments, divisions, non-profit entities and companies superior to their mediocre counterparts. You can read about their groundbreaking work in the book, First, Break All the Rules.1 Gallup interviewed over 1,000,000 people: managers and their subordinates, peers and bosses. After extensive statistical analysis, the single greatest differentiating factor was determined to be great managers. If you think that's an obvious answer, then you're in the minority: Millions of managers have been "right-sized" over the past decade and many companies have streamlined organizational structure by eliminating entire levels of management (e.g., self-directed teams). Now, many enterprises are discovering that they need to add managers back into the picture, because streamlining the organizational chart didn't result in the desired financial benefits.

Certainly, many companies in the 90's were bloated with managers, but more importantly, they were bloated with mediocre managers. To cure the disease of Overhead Bloat, the Right-Sizing pill killed the good tissue (great managers) along with the cancer. Many companies experienced severe side effects: lower productivity, higher employee turnover and decreased customer satisfaction leading to lower market share. In contrast, great organizations surgically removed the cancer (mediocre managers) and held on to their great managers. Great enterprises recognize the value of the special talents held by great managers.

The table below contrasts the management style of great managers vs. mediocre managers for four key functions. Compared to conventional management wisdom, great managers break all the rules — hence the title of Gallup's book.

Management FunctionsTraditional ManagerGreat Manager
Selects people based on...Experience (resulting in skills & knowledge)Talent, intelligence, determination
Sets expectations by...Defining the right stepsDefining the right outcomes
Motivates people by...Helping them overcome their weaknessesBuilding on their strengths
Develops people by...Helping them get promotedFinding the right fit for them


Gallup defines talent as, "A recurring pattern of behavior that fits the role." No mention of skills or knowledge! Because underlying attitudes drive behavior, talent is really about ATTITUDE! Perhaps you may have heard that 95% of people are hired for experience, while 90% of people are fired for their attitude. In great enterprises, firings are infrequent, because they hire for talent.

How is talent developed? It isn't — it's cultivated, by helping to make people more of what they already are. This is accomplished by transforming potential into performance: In the table above, this transformation is embodied in "motivates people by . . . building on their strengths." Talent is a behavioral strength: Because attitudes drive behavior, the key to transforming potential into performance is attitude development. Attitudes are changed using spaced repetition to effect positive conditioning, coupled with instilling permanent goal achievement habits.


By defining their version of the right steps for performing a job, mediocre managers short-change their organizations. Employees resent that their talents aren't valued enough to be allowed to do their job in ways that suit their strengths. If the defined steps require employees to use their weaknesses, they won't perform the job well — eventually, they'll leave or get fired. On the other hand, by defining the right outcome, great managers capitalize on employee talents: When talented employees design steps that make use of their strengths, they will excel in the job.


There are many ways to identify talents -- your employee's behavioral strengths -- but it's tricky, so you should seek professional guidance, at least at the start. There are many behavior measurement systems that you can use to identify the talents already existing within your staff (you could be surprised!) and to identify the best recruits. Chances are, you will discover that some of your employees aren't matched to their role. With knowledge about their talent inventory, you will avoid blindly trying to make them fit the role, rather than finding a role that fits their talent.


Excellence is derived from talent, which is a behavioral strength. Behavior is driven by attitudes, so turning talent into performance is all about attitude! Attitude development can't be accomplished overnight, and you probably can't do it using your internal trainers, who are immersed in, and busy with, skills and knowledge training. Besides, when was the last time that your dentist drilled his own teeth?

1First, Break All the Rules -- What the World's Greatest Managers do Differently, by Buckingham and Coffman, published by Simon & Schuster, The Gallup Organization.

Copyright © 2001 The Quintessence Corporation.

Team Pennsylvania CareerLink
Offers Online Employment Services

Bristol, PA — The Team Pennsylvania CareerLink is now open to help fill employment needs. CareerLink is a unique website that's part of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's online system. The site can be found at and offers both job seeker as well as employer services. Employers can post job openings with CareerLink that offer a number of choices with distinct advantages:
  • User-friendly and intuitive design
  • Simple registration process
  • Candidate search feature for direct access to job seekers
  • Order tracking with employer "activity log"
  • Links to economic development, education, and training services.
The Bucks County CareerLink Office is located at 1260 New Rodgers Road in Bristol. They can be reached at 215-981-1060.

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