Where Do You Spend Your Time?

By Gerald Walsh ©

The theory goes that you spend your time where you receive the greatest return. That’s what good sales people do: they focus their attention on those customers who buy, or will potentially buy, the most products from them.

Unfortunately, it seems when managing staff this theory doesn’t hold. In fact, I would venture to guess that the exact opposite is true: That managers spend far greater time managing low or marginal performers than they do with employees who offer the greatest return.

So how should you allocate your time? Start by considering each of the following categories of workers. Then, ask yourself: how much time do I give to each of them?


These individuals are your top performers – likely your greatest assets. They’re solid players with great attitudes. Representing about ten percent of the workforce, stars are often not given enough attention, because they’re rarely a problem. Lack of support though can be risky as your competitors might scoop them up.


Every organization needs these workhorses: employees who ‘keep their heads down,’ are dependable and loyal, and do the job required. Rank and file employees bring depth and stability to the organization and tend to value work – life balance more than others, either out necessity or preference. They represent the largest percentage of most workforces.


These are newcomers to the organization presumably with plenty of potential otherwise you would not have hired them. Being green, they need lots of time and attention from you. These days, no one stays a ‘newbie’ longer than six months.

Hot prospects

These workers are likely embedded in the rank-and-file right now but with encouragement and coaching could rise to the top. The trick is to identify these hard working, competent people – best achieved through regular performance management where through open communication you will uncover their future career goals.

Time wasters

Generally know as the ‘problem child’ of the organization. These individuals are marginal performers at best and bring all sorts of other issues to the workplace that distract them, co-workers and you from real work. Seeking constant attention and frequently complaining about just about everything, time wasters have a difficult time seeing an issue from any perspective other than their own and feel it is their right to share that with everyone.

Lost causes

Otherwise known as deadwood, these are low performers with bad attitudes who consume far more time than they are worth. Coaching and training rarely helps these people: they should be worked out of the organization as quickly as possible.

I would suggest that you find a way to spend virtually all your time focused on ‘stars,’ ‘rank-and-file’ (particularly the hot prospects) and ‘newbies.’ (Bear in mind that newbies aren’t newbies for long.) ‘Time wasters’ and ‘lost causes’ deserve no time, unless it is spent helping them find another job outside your company.

Constructive use of this time involves regular performance feedback, preferable quarterly or semi-annually. A single performance meeting once a year does little to provide timely advice to help these individuals advance. Letting these individuals know that you care goes a long way to ensuring a committed and engaged work force.

I would like to receive your comments and questions about this topic. Please email me at and I will respond to you.

Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and writer. During a 25+ year career, he has interviewed more than 10,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @@Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn