Don’t Focus All Your Energy On The Quick Starters On Your Team

Written by Mike Shapiro | | October 19, 2017

We’ve all seen it. It’s the early going for any team sport, exercise, dance, singing or instrumental class, at any age, any level. In the first few practices or classes, everyone tries to get the hang of it. The coaches or instructors are giving advice and encouragement to everyone. As things progress, two or three players start to break out and show more improvement. Another three or four are really struggling. The ones in the middle are doing ok.

What do the coaches/instructors do? They start to focus their energy on the quick starters. Why? Because they’re the ones who seem to “get it” — to be responding to the leaders’ efforts. These are the “good guys,” the “winners,” the ones who can help us win — be successful — right?

Then what happens? A couple more in the middle group move up and get better as they’re inspired by the performance of the top group and by the increased attention those players are getting from the coaches/instructors. The bottom group begins to lose interest. They’re the ones that will soon be assigned to less important roles, furthering the distance between them and the coaches’/instructors’ attention and energy field.

Pretty soon the participants have settled into two groups: a special in-group of about four or five players getting all the attention, and the other seven or eight just going along, disengaged and not really enjoying the game, the exercise, the song or dance, or the interaction. Some may start to feel marginalized and dejected. A couple might actually quit. But most will stay with it, often because of peer pressure or just the notion that nobody wants to “be a quitter.”

Then what have you got? A team with a few stars, really playing hard, while the rest just show up, going through the motions.

It’s natural for leaders, putting out messages to a group, to respond to and engage with the first ones to get it, but at a cost of possibly spoiling the top players, actually losing a couple of others from the roster and marginalizing the rest of the team!

Exercise: For a day or two, keep track of where your energy is focused: With which of your team members are you spending most of your time? What kinds of conversations are you having and with whom? What kinds of feedback are you giving and to whom? 

To accomplish your team’s mission, you need everyone to be productive. A few top performers can’t do everyone’s job, no matter how good they are.

  • Quick starters can become smug and complacent with too much attention, creating a bad vibe in your “clubhouse” and sabotaging your work environment.
  • Other team members who weren’t as quick out of the starting blocks may have the potential to become just as effective, maybe more so, with a little time and guidance and encouragement from you.
  • Spending the time and effort to engage other players can help you develop important leadership skills you’ll need to complete really big and important projects.

Try to resist the inclination to limit your energies to those members who are quick to appreciate and pick up on your message. Focusing too much on them could spoil them and lose others who could be critical in helping you get the job done.