10/13/2014 11:43 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Pay Attention to the Middle of the Bell Curve

2014-10-03-blogbellcurve.pngI was working with a client, a new CEO, about the dynamics of influencing his Board of Directors , whom he, as of yet, did not know well.

We discussed his ability to persuade his Board on issues important to him.
I drew a bell curve with the typical vertical lines intersecting the Bell at each of its sides where the Bell gets skinnier.

I shaded the left side of the Bell. "This is the 10-20 percent that are entrenched in their positions that you won't sway. You will very quickly know who they are."

I shaded the left right side of the Bell. "This is the 10-20 percent that are aligned with you. You will very quickly know who they are, if you don't already."

I tapped the largest part of the bell, the middle. "This is the workhorse of the board. Good diligent board members, open to ideas, perspectives and data; listening and committed to making decisions on the merit of your case. Get to know them. When presenting, address them. The outliers are what they are."

I could have drawn that bell curve for almost any organizational dynamic. Talent Management for example. All too often, in our Talent Management processes -- how we evaluate our people, compensation discussions, promotion opportunities, succession planning -- we focus on the bottom performers (the left side of the bell) and on the top performers (the right side.)

In fact, the lifeblood of our organization, its DNA, sits in the middle. It is the 80 percent of the organization that comes to work every day doing their job. They are the face to the customer; they are the company's growth engine, productivity engine and profit engine.

It behooves us to pay attention to the middle.