Bright Spots and Duds

Accountability Contribution Teamwork


Key Point: If we closely look at people we work with, some colleagues show bright spots; they work under similar circumstances, yet achieve substantially more than others. It almost seems too easy. Yet when we thoughtfully and carefully study “why?”, answers are there for us to share and scale with others. Shining a light on and learning from “bright spots” is one cool path to a substantial increase in productivity and performance within the organization.

Chip Heath, NYT best selling author, Stanford professor, and organization consultant, presented at a conference I was at this past week. He noted that by focusing on “bright spots,” a large fast food chain was able to significantly increase the speed of customer order and fulfillment by recognizing that “bright spot” employees did something most others didn’t. They always repeated customer orders into their head sets, alerting the kitchen in advance of the precise meal items being placed in the system. By taking that “bright spot” differentiator and applying it to ALL order takers, business has dramatically increased. Over time, that “bright spot” order technique became the standard operating process for all and resulted in a competitive advantage for the company.

The reputation and brand of the organization you and I work in, is also most often defined by the lowest behaviorally performing person; people we might refer to as “duds.” We can have everyone representing our brand in the best possible way and yet one abusive, cynical person can knock over the “rice bowl.” These people are poisonous to a culture, although often still smart enough to get results. Yet, they often get numbers, by running over teammates, alienating customers, and creating a toxic work environment. And that means, the “duds” have to go. 

Character Moves:

  1. Find the “bright spots” and apply what they’re so successfully doing to differentiate themselves. Make that adaptation to any applicable part of the company. Sometimes it’s just that simple.
  1. At the same time, find the “duds,” who after performance coaching just “don’t get it” or “want to get It.” Unceremoniously and respectfully FIRE them. Don’t wait. The most respectful thing to do is to call out a “dud” and help that person find something else they are more suited to do. Most leaders know this and yet often need a kick in the pants to do something about it.  
  1. Driving to high level of cultural performance is like being on a teeter-totter. It’s a balance between finding/replicating “bright spots,” while terminating/minimizing “duds.” You and I have to do both. Leadership involves having that courage. Anyone can avoid a tough conversation, leaders don’t.

Bright spots in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: Just do a little research on the customer service difference between the highly successful Netflix, and the worst rated Comcast cable company… In the last two days, I’ve heard of Netflix customer service awarding an armed service member five years of free subscription after they were deployed during a price increase, and a lovely discussion between a Netflix customer service rep and a normal customer during a movie request. During the same period of time, an angry Comcast customer is probably still on hold. No wonder the “bright spot” is dominating television as we know it.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis