Who are the superstars on any team? Those with an affinity and ability for what they do. Who else is on your team? What makes someone a Struggler, a Misfit, or just plain Dead Weight? This is part 3 of a 3-part series: “Affinity + Ability = Achievement”.
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Affinity + Ability = Achievement with Allen Fahden: Part 3
Karla Nelson: Welcome to The People Catalysts podcast, Allen Fahden.
Allen Fahden: Karla Nelson, hello.
Karla Nelson: Hello, hello. So, my friend, we’re wrapping up part three of a three-part series. How you doing today?
Allen Fahden: Yes. I am doing wonderful. I got a laugh because you sent me a note, said it was part three of a two-part series, and I got a laugh.
Karla Nelson: See, we know how to create miracles around here.
Allen Fahden: Boy, gets no better than that.
Karla Nelson: That’s awesome. So we are on part three of a three part series affinity plus ability equals achievement, and if you hadn’t heard the first two parts of this series, the affinity and ability, it’s absolutely critical. Go back and listen to those because there is an equation that we are gonna be discussing today that identifies, because again, affinity and ability, you can’t separate them exactly. They bleed over into each other and when you have the magic of having both an affinity and ability to get something done, that’s truly when you get to the achievement piece.
Allen Fahden: And today, we’re gonna look at it a little bit differently and that is if you’re managing people. Not only this is for you, yourself, but also if you’re managing people and Marshall Thurber who’s a friend of mine and one of the most brilliant people I ever met, he worked with Deming, a quality guru for eight and a half years, and he said Dr. Deming defined management in one word. Can you guess what that word is? Of course I couldn’t, and the word turned out to be prediction. A manager’s function is to be able to predict what is going to happen and that’s what’s going to make the difference between the success, think about this, a successful and a not so successful manager. If you could predict things, you can do all kinds of things you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to do.
Now, how do you predict? What we’re doing is breaking that down a little bit for you because there are four basic outcomes with people regardless of how well they interview or how good of a resume they put together or how glowingly their references talk about them. They either succeed or they don’t. But some of the ways are obvious and some of them are not so obvious. So we want to give you a heads up on that today, and share it. Some of the things that can happen with a person are really pretty interesting. Here’s one what a person turns into and it doesn’t take long and it’s very, very clear. It’s one of those everybody knows it and it’s a matter of time. Imagine the picture of a brick. This is dead weight. This is a slab. This is something going downhill at the speed of gravity in free fall and what that usually means is not much affinity, not much ability.
Now there’s also a person who’s a struggler and this is a little bit more difficult to read because a struggler has the affinity. They like what they’re doing, they think it’s important, and they really, really want to do well, and still they don’t. Why? Because they just don’t have the natural ability, so they’re struggling all the time. They’re kind of like a flat tire or driving their car with some square wheels on them. That’s a little tougher to see, but it’s like that person has a really good attitude, they don’t seem to perform very well, but gee, they have a great attitude. And then you have the opposite true, we call them a misfit and that’s a person who has a high degree of ability but seems to have a bad attitude and oftentimes it gets a little dramatic, maybe and undermines the moral and you don’t really wanna be around them but they kinda stay around because it’s almost like they know where the bodies are buried or something. They’re indispensable because they have a set of skills that they’re really good at that everybody needs, but they sure don’t care about what they’re doing and their attitude really tears everybody down.
So that’s a little bit of a struggle, too. Then of course there’s the ideal situation and that is when you’re a star performer, what does that mean? You’re high in affinity, what you’re doing, and you’re high in ability. You’ve got great natural talent, you’ve developed it, and you’re the kind of person who has a lot of insight, you’re always just way ahead of everybody else. You were fast, it’s fun, it’s like I get paid for doing this. I can’t believe it. A little Steve Martin.
So that’s the way we’re gonna break this down for you today. Hang with us because we’ll shed a little more light on this. We wanted to give you a little bit of a preview.
Karla Nelson: Yep, and in that, we want to go back to what you said a second ago, Allen, in looking at this through definition of management being prediction. Management truly is a leadership position. Sometimes people think only the executives or in leadership positions, really, everybody should be in the leadership position, but I want to take just a second to go back into the three types of leaders that we see in organizations and how they gain that title leadership/management, right? However you want. Through three specific, different ways.
So first you have your positional leadership, which traditionally, this is the CEO, the boss. Basically anybody who you have to answer to. They’re put in a position of power. Then you’ve got your technical leader. This is the person that kind of somewhere in between the positional and the next one I’m gonna get into, which is the expert. Everybody looks to this person because they know everything about something and then you have your last type of leader that gains their leadership title through influence. So it’s their personality and people trust them, people like to be around them and they coordinate things well. They just are influencing, and again, you can be two of those. You can not be probably all three of those, right? Different types of individuals, right? ‘Cause you could really, in my opinion, be a leader and not be given the title.
That’s specifically where we wanna go and we go at and teach and train organizations because what we want is that everybody gets to lead, but only at a specific phase of the work and what makes the magic of this is understanding as that leader, I don’t care where you are on that organizational structure, but leading with understanding that those around you, first yourself, and those around you, that they have an affinity and ability for the work that they’re being asked to do.
Allen Fahden: Yeah, that’s a great one and something, too, more about the positional leader. If you are one or if you know one, this is something to be careful with because you can have positional good or positional bad and so positional bad we all know is my way or the highway or you’ll do as I say and this is my vision and nobody gets a part from it. That’s just the way it is. Then you have positional good, which is I like your idea, I recognize what you’re doing here and let me provide some resources for you. Lets follow it out. So it’s sort of like as a positional leader, you’ve got this big hand of authority and this big basket of resources and you can use that to crush people, or you can use it to lift them up. We prefer positional good, lift them up.
Karla Nelson: Yeah. I agree, and traditionally, as you know, positional has been really given this bad label, but it doesn’t have to.
Allen Fahden: Doesn’t have to be. One of my favorite leaders is named PJ Fleck and he’s starting his second year as the University of Minnesota Football Coach.
Karla Nelson: I love this. This is by the way one of my favorite quotes. I just think it’s fantastic. I probably quoted it already four or five times. I mean, and we just talked about it today. It’s just awesome. Seriously, take a pen and paper out right now because to me, this is just absolutely critical in understanding leadership.
Allen Fahden: And he really drives leadership where it should go, but it does it in an elegant way. He says, “A bad team is when nobody leads. A mediocre team is where coach’s lead. A great team is where players lead.”
Karla Nelson: I love that. I love it. And that’s so aligned with what we do as an organization. It’s so critical and it’s actually quite obvious, right?
Allen Fahden: He’s the guy who coached at Western Michigan University a couple years ago and in four years he brought them from a 1-11 record to a 13-0 record. He finally lost, he got them the Cotton Bowl and lost in this huge game by a narrow margin to Wisconsin who out-weighed each player by 30, 40 pounds ’cause he was with a small school, but his theme is row the boat. Put your oar in the water and keep going. He’s a wonderful, wonderful builder of leaders.
Karla Nelson: That’s awesome, and another part, I think that this lends itself to is that when the players are leading, followership is a part of leadership at the right time. And so it’s not like there’s this one person, it’s just that they’re sitting in the right place that they need to be sitting at that time and they’re being leaders because they’re okay with that. So there might be a certain time where somebody else, it needs to be talking or it needs to be doing part of the work or whatnot, but that, for instance, let me give you an example, when you watch a start player, but they’re not engaging the rest of the team at a part of running the ball because they wanna be the superstar.
A form of leadership is to not to not do it to the best of the team, but to sit in the spot, sit in the phase of the work, sit in the phase of the play that you can lead at your own spot. But everybody else has to give you that space. And that, still, followership is a form of leadership, so I think we missed that. We think that oh, just because you’re following, you’re not leading. My opinion, the best leaders I’ve ever worked with tend to be the best followers at the time that they know that’s what their best position should be.
And so with that, Allen, lets talk about who do achievement matrix. You lent a little bit examining the four different potential ability and affinity aspects of the who who do achievement matrix, so what I want everybody to think about doing, or if you have a piece of paper and a pencil is think about four quadrant matrix, so all of us have seen those in several different fashions, and at the top of this four quadrant matrix, so a big box with a plus sign in the middle of it into four boxes, and at the top, you’re gonna put high affinity, and at the bottom, you’re gonna put low affinity, and to the left you’ll put low ability, and then to the right you’ll put high ability. What we’re gonna do is go through each of those quadrants and in that, as we always like to do, is have an example and then an outcome example. So the individual, the experience, and then what this would look like in a given situation.
Allen Fahden: Yeah, and so this is a friend of ours named Andrew, and Andrew’s a perfect poster child for what we’re talking about because he did what a lot of people do, but he sort of did it accidentally in the right order and he learned as he went.
Karla Nelson: And magically, magically he did it in the exact right order because life isn’t perfect and we don’t do it that way. We don’t jump from quadrant to quadrant, do we?
Allen Fahden: No, we don’t. So what he did, imagine go back to yourself or forward or whatever, but someone is just getting out of school, wants to get their first job. They’re pretty much taking what they can get. They’re trying to get a few things lined up to make the best choice. So he did that and he found that he was, he lived in a town and there were a lot of businesses there. The ones that had the most money at the time were banks, so he interviewed at banks and he found that one thing they were in need of was people that could be big time number crunchers and that wasn’t particularly what he liked to do, but he was okay at that. He got through school, I know he took an accounting course and got maybe through algebra and math. So he took the job.
In a very short period of time, he figured out what was going on, what was going on with him and he was what we would call low ability, low affinity, bottom left in that quadrant and he was dead weight. He wasn’t performing, he didn’t like what he was doing and so therefore, he had trouble focusing and then even when he did some things well, he thought about, geeze, I’m doing all this and I work for a bank. What’s wrong with me? But he needed a job and he needed a paycheck, so he rode it out as long as he could.
The writing was on the wall immediately and he started looking around. He said okay, I got a job, that’s the best way to get another job is when you have a job.
Karla Nelson: When they hire you, that’s when you say yes, right?
Allen Fahden: That’s right, and so he took it and that was great, except when he got there, his day wasn’t so great and he immediately, so obviously found out he was dead weight and it was a matter of time if he didn’t get himself out of there, they were gonna get him out of there and it would be best for him to do so ’cause he didn’t like being in a bank anyway.
Karla Nelson: You got it. You got it. So what we know about Andrew is that he didn’t necessarily like numbers, he needed a job, and he didn’t, he took a job based off the fact the needed to make some money. Then ended up in a position in a big accounting department where he wasn’t good at it and he didn’t enjoy his work. So really quickly, this really reminds me of a lot of kids right out of college, actually. Many people have gone through this later in life, but they get there, they want to put their dent on the universe and very quickly realize I have to pay the bills and so I have to do what I have to do.
Allen Fahden: Yeah.
Karla Nelson: And it doesn’t work out, so what do you do? You start putting your applications in other places.
Allen Fahden: That’s right, and so now what do people always think of next? They always think about I should change my life. I’ll transform myself, I’ll start doing something I’m passionate about.
Karla Nelson: I was just gonna use that word, ’cause obviously affinity is close to passion. We use the word affinity. But exactly, I’m gonna find myself, I’m gonna find my passion.
Allen Fahden: Yeah, so, and Andrew loves baseball. So he decided there was a professional baseball team in town, a minor league team, and then he sent them all his resume and wrong an impassioned letter that he loves baseball so much. Got an interview and so it wasn’t long before they made him an offer and he’s like on top of the world. He’s just dancing on cloud nine and he gives his notice at the bank and they weren’t really too sad to let him go, but he got out of there early enough and he went to the baseball team and they said oh, by the way, we’re gonna put you in the accounting department because we’ve got a big need right there. I know that’s not exactly what you want to do, but just kind of hunker down there and put your nose down and we’ll get you into something better later, but you’ve gotta kind of pay your dues here.
He says oh, okay. That wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but it’s a baseball team. I’m gonna be working 50 feet from the old ball park. How about that? So he took his job and went on it for a while and said well, I sure love baseball. He started doing his number crunching. This is boring and this is bad, but I love baseball. So he put some artifacts in the room, he got more stuff around him that reminded him of baseball, but he still had to go back and crunch those numbers and he hated it. He hated his work. So here he was in phase two. He was struggling. He hated his work, he knew he wasn’t doing it well, and it was a matter of time before he got found out and he likes these people, they’re the baseball people. He doesn’t wanna let them down. Well, he was, and he knew it. And you know what, they started to do more. So what was he gonna do?
Karla Nelson: Yep. Exactly. And then we know how this starts working. We get to the next quadrant. Which is the misfit quadrant.
Allen Fahden: Well he said you’ve got a better job, can you get me into promotion? One of the things we gotta say, too, about Andrew, is we gotta really emphasize that Andrew’s a shaker. He’s an ideas person. You can imagine an idea person crunching numbers all day long.
Karla Nelson: And you know what, you make a good point here, Allen, which is I’m gonna find myself and find my passion. Okay, baseball. Which was a passion, it’s just that he was doing the wrong role in the right space. And so now all of a sudden here goes the I’m gonna find myself again because I love baseball but this accounting thing is for the birds. This is not working out for me. But how can I-
Allen Fahden: He even tried to go into the promotional meetings for their coming up with ideas for the next season for all the promotions. They wouldn’t let him in the meeting. You’re so far behind on your receivables work, we’re gonna go out of business before next season if you don’t get this done. So he couldn’t even go to the meetings.
Karla Nelson: Oh, yeah. Poor guy. Now all of a sudden he’s like I love this creative side, I love what’s going on with this, right?
Allen Fahden: Yep.
Karla Nelson: Now we’re finally-
Allen Fahden: Go ahead.
Karla Nelson: No, I was gonna say now we’re at the space where I found myself, where people think they’ve found their ideal job which is just the ideal place, but not necessarily the ideal role in the company. And that’s when you’re in that strugglers spot. And I think struggler is such a good word for it because really you’re at odds with yourself there because you almost feel as you were saying guilty because you wanted to work. You love, and you’re passionate, you have this affinity for this space that you’re working in. You just hate your day to day work that you’re doing.
Allen Fahden: Yep. So one day he had a thought. He says maybe I just need to get experience, like a marketing job or promotional job. Someplace where I can really work with ideas and so he thought about that and so he started looking through the newspapers and the online sites, and he found there was a promotional/marketing job open. They were looking for people with a lot of ideas, then they would do the rest. He thought this was great, so he calls up one of these personnel places and he calls them up and they said oh yeah, we can get you an interview there. He got all signed up with them and everything. He got their first interview, and guess where it was. At one of the competitive banks. It’s like what? No.
So he did the interview and he talked to the guy at the bank and it turned out they really had something for him. They needed what he did, they were willing to support him and try out a lot of different ideas. They really needed some good ideas, and so he went in there. Other than it being a bank, it was a job made in heaven for him and they implemented all his ideas and he started getting really successful and brought a lot of new business to the ban and everybody was happy except he had, when he was back at the baseball team, he had a gnawing feeling like no matter how many baseball artifacts I have in my office, something’s not right here, and it was gnawing at him and it was destroying his soul. So here now he’s having all this success doing what he loves with his ideas, but he still hates banks and he’s thinking I did all this, just another, sell another checking account. What’s wrong with me?
Karla Nelson: So he was applying his creativity to the wrong area where he didn’t feel passionate. So just again, just to remind the listeners here, so high ability, low affinity. So he was just in the wrong, now that would be, ’cause he was passionate about baseball. He was not passionate about banking at all. So now he’s applying his ability where he has no affinity. So he doesn’t love the place he’s making a difference in even though he’s making a big difference.
Allen Fahden: So here he is sitting in the bottom right quadrant now, and he’s a misfit. Why is he a misfit? Because if you observed Andrew, it would be like hey, Andrew, how’s it going? He says oh, man. I’m just doing this and this and this and this. How do you like it? I don’t. I do not feel inspired. There’s just nothing motivating me. I’m dragging myself to work these days. Just having ideas, just not enough to sustain me. I gotta apply my ideas to something that really draws me forth.
Karla Nelson: Yeah, and not like that. Being a creative person in a bank, it might sell checking accounts and get people in the door, but it’s a bank, okay? I’m a recovering banker myself and I was a broker for many years. That’s not a place for early adopters. Maybe a couple, but if you’re not passionate about having people have a home or doing something specific, it’s not a creative type atmosphere, lets say.
Allen Fahden: So Andrew gets a text from his bosses boss at the baseball team. This is maybe six months later and the boss says in the text, you’re not gonna believe this but a couple things have happened. One is something we did right away was we hired somebody who could actually crunch numbers for your old job.
Karla Nelson: Woo hoo.
Allen Fahden: So we managed to stay in business for the last few months, and the other thing is that Pete, who was the concept guy for our promotions left, moved to another city, he’s with a AAA Team, kind of moved up in the world. We’ve got a big hole there and I remember what you said and I saw some of the ideas you showed me for fun that you were playing with and I immediately thought of you. Why don’t you come over and talk to us about becoming our new promotion manager?
Karla Nelson: Which moved him obviously quickly into, he’s probably jumping up and down for joy at that point, right?
Allen Fahden: Well he immediately grouped with from that bank. He didn’t quit his job. No sir, he didn’t quit his job, but he goes over there, does the interview, and viola, he gets the job. And ever since he has been on top of the world, but more importantly, or as importantly, he’s got affinity and ability, and he has some remarkable achievements there.
Karla Nelson: Yeah.
Allen Fahden: Some of his promotions are famous, they got so much media attention.
Karla Nelson: And so this quadrant of high affinity and high ability is what we call the performer. The person you hear about that just loves what they do and they’re great at doing it, and obviously this is the goal, right? The goal is to get to, and its not like you have to go through all the quadrants to get there. Andrew went through all the quadrants to get there. A lot of us go back and forth in the quadrants depending on current situations, but being a leader, understanding what quadrant your person or your team member is in is not necessarily because they want to be dead weight. It’s just understanding that if they have a low ability and a low affinity for things, that’s just naturally what’s gonna happen. It doesn’t matter what they’re working on, and so this is really everyone’s responsibility. Everyone’s responsibility within the team to change this system. To change the system of what we call a move to role management, which is function management, and Allen, if you want to take a second to explain the role management versus function management.
Allen Fahden: Yeah. So function management has been around for 150 years. It’s like okay, you’re hired for this job, you do it. Beginning to middle to end. We do everything. They say things like nice idea, run with it. Well the person has the great idea is the worst person to run with it. Also, we spend about, oh, maybe we have 50, 60, 70% of our work outside of our affinity and ability, and that just slows us down and that makes us late and we turn in substandard results. So you can actually map your team on these four quadrants and you’ll probably find that you have maybe one, if you’re lucky, maybe one or none dead weight, and you know who it is. It’d be the easiest one to do. But you probably got a pretty good share of strugglers, and probably an even bigger share of misfits, especially when you look at the number of people who hate their jobs. 70%.
Karla Nelson: Oh, is that, this is horrible, and internationally, David Lee shared with us, it’s 89%. And we’re not talking aren’t happy. We’re talking hate.
Allen Fahden: Hate their jobs.
Karla Nelson: 89% internationally. 70% in the United States. We’ve got to change the way this work is done. That doesn’t make any sense.
Allen Fahden: Yep, and if you look at the four quadrants, the numbers, 70%, 89%, that’s three out of the four quadrants hate their job for one reason or another. So it stands to reason. Now as a manager or a leader, your job is to get everybody into the performer category, and you can do that, especially if you, with all the care you’ve taken to hire the right person, problem is we don’t onboard them correctly. We hire the geese that lay the golden egg, and then we, what do we do, the neuter them and put duck costumes on them and galoshes and push them out and say good luck to you all.
Karla Nelson: Exactly, exactly. Awesome. Wonderful. Wonderful. So this is the last series, the third part of the three part series and Allen, if there’s anything you want to add before we sign them off, I think that was fantastic. Have the work fit the people, not the other way around.