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Stars, Steadies and Slackers


One of the fundamentals of great leadership is recognising that no two people are the same and everyone must be treated as a unique person who can make a valuable contribution to the team/ organisation. Everyone has the potential to add value, given the right environment, encouragement, tools to do the job and so on. Any team, work group or department will inevitably have a range of contributions from its constituents. Sometimes these are clustered as Stars, Steadies and Slackers. So, while remembering that everyone has the right to be treated as a unique individual, and we should, in general, avoid assigning labels or badges to individuals, what are the key components of effective leadership of Stars, Steadies and Slackers?

Let’s start with the Stars. First of all, they are only really a Star if they lift everyone else around them. If they are basking in the glory at the expense of everyone else, they are definitely not a Star; they are a “pseudo star” or maybe a prima donna. Equally, if they compete with other Stars to the detriment of the team, that is also a problem. If they are a real Star, someone who is invested in helping their work colleagues develop and grow, then they need to be kept happy with a positive and challenging workplace.

Steadies are the “life blood” of organisations. Without them, the organisation would sink without trace and, very often, they don’t get the recognition they deserve. That is when problems can arise and a Steady may become disillusioned. We all deserve and need some recognition. Some may claim they don’t, but it is one of the most important aspects of effective employee engagement. So, what is important for leading Steadies? Most performance management programmes, such as reward and recognition systems, promotions, succession planning, etc., seem to be aimed at the Stars, but what about the Steadies?

It is crucial to get to know them well, their preferences, work styles and requirements. Do they lack confidence? Would they rather avoid the spotlight? Would they benefit from coaching? Do they have constraints external to work? What gives them a buzz? What do they want from their role? Are there ways in which their role can be tailored to fit their strengths and optimise their contribution? Understanding these aspects is essential. Some Steadies will be quite happy where they are, some may be able to, and want to, contribute more, and some may become Stars.

How about a slacker? Many of the questions to ask yourself will be as above for the Steady, but, first of all, what is the evidence they are actually a slacker? It is important to focus on outcomes, not just whether someone looks lazy or busy. Has something happened in the past to turn them off, some real or perceived injustice, and what can be done, if anything, to rectify that situation? Taking time to understand their world is critical. Eventually though, for the sake of the rest of the team, it may be necessary for them to fulfil their potential elsewhere.

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