Focus on Current Thinking: High Performers: The Model Employees

Stephen F. Eckel, PharmD, MHA, BCPS, FASHP, FAPhA
Published Online: Friday, March 1, 2013
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High-performing employees are at once extremely competent and excellent team players.

In mid-January, I wrote about low performers in the workplace and how they can be toxic to an institution. Low performers are employees who have inconsistent work output and who approach change in the workplace with a negative attitude, keeping an organization from achieving its goals. This classification was drawn from a book many hospital executives are well aware of: Results that Last: Hardwiring Behaviors That Will Take Your Company to the Top. This book, by Quint Studer, promotes evidence-based leadership.
 
On the other end of the spectrum from low performers are high performers. These are the individuals you want in your organization, as they are the problem-solvers. Not only are they highly competent at what they do, they are also excellent team players. They work to achieve the goals of the organization and are prompt, courteous, and diligent in carrying out their responsibilities. These people are easy to identify: Just look for the employees who combine professional workplace behavior with impeccable competence at their jobs.
 
It is important to understand that a high performer has to at once have excellent expertise in their content area and be a team player. Over the years, I have hired individuals who have excelled in competence. They were up on all the professional literature in their field and were frequent writers and speakers on their subjects. While it was great to have them associated with our department, they had little patience for doing anything besides what they wanted to do. If they were asked to cover patients not associated with their training, perform activities affiliated with dispensing, or interact with people who did not meet their standard of excellence, they became vocal and frustrated. As a manager, I found myself spending significant amounts of time trying to make these employees satisfied or to appease others whom they had offended. At some point, I usually concluded that they were not the best fit for our organization.
 
I have also had employees who were excellent team players, but lacked the expertise necessary for their position. I could always count on them to be on time, interact well with everyone, handle any problems that came up, and pick up extra shifts. What could be wrong with an employee like this? The issues usually arose because they didn’t know about the latest therapies, missed optimizing drug regimens when reviewing patient profiles, and, as a result, lost the confidence of their fellow employees. While their attitude was ideal for me as a manager, I spent a lot of time trying to regain the trust and confidence of their teammates and developing competency programs to fill in the gaps in their learning. If these individuals were unable or unwilling to develop their skills, I came to the conclusion that they, too, were not the best fit for our system.
 
It is ideal when a manager has an employee who excels in terms of behavior and competence. When that balance is present, the organization is in harmony. It is great for the manager, for fellow employees, and for patients. As a result, many managers review candidates with the goal of finding excellence in both areas. While this is not easy and might mean that it takes longer to fill a position, the wait is worth the delay, as the person you hire will be employed longer and will improve the performance of the entire organization. This is why they are called high performers.
 
Has your experience demonstrated this principle to be true? I would appreciate learning from you.

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