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Nov 4, 2014

Ozzy is an 8-year-old golden retriever who loves to fetch our morning newspaper.

Although our driveway is nearly as long as a football field, he is relentless in his pursuit and always manages to find it and bring it to us at the front door even in a driving rain or total white-out blizzard. For this, we reward Ozzy with a jerky treat and a massive amount of praise.

We began training him to handle this chore when he was only a few months old and it took less than five (5) days for him to master it. It’s been a good deal for both parties ever since.

Sadly, nine weeks ago, on a full sprint to get the morning paper, Ozzy tore his ACL; the same injury that has cut short the careers of many a world-class athlete. Even though surgery will allow him to walk again without pain, the vet has told us that Ozzy’s days of paper fetching are over.

 Don’t send one dog to do another’s job

My wife and I have been trying to train Olivia, our 3-year-old rescue border collie/chow mix to assume the paper fetching duties. She has gone through the same exact training regimen as Ozzy, always being prodded, praised, and cajoled with yummy jerky treats for even the most minimal progress she makes toward the goal.

She has tons of energy and the ability to catch a frisbee in midair and bring it back to you, but after eight (8) full weeks of paper-fetch training, it’s become very clear to us that Olivia is not cut out for Ozzy’s job.

We could upgrade her reward to a 20-ounce Porterhouse and it wouldn’t make the slightest difference. It would be easier to train Carl, our overweight house cat, to fetch that stupid newspaper.

That doesn’t render Olivia useless, however. If we ever decide that we don’t want the fox, rabbits, deer, or elk on our property, we’ve got a highly skilled and motivated canine who’s perfect for the job.

It’s taken us longer than it should have, but we’ve finally come to the conclusion that Olivia is an exceptional wildlife chaser and frisbee catcher, but a lousy paper fetcher.

Put your aces in the right places

If you stepped away from your business and examined it from an unbiased perspective, you might discover that some of your people aren’t performing up to their potential.

It could be because they aren’t motivated. Then again, it could be that they aren’t being used effectively.

It’s not enough to have talented players on your team. For maximum performance and productivity, each player must be in a position that best utilizes their skills while igniting their passion.

But, that is easier said than done.

An employee who is good at a particular job, but has no passion for it, is no more an asset to a company than someone who demonstrates a lot of passion for a job but no aptitude, skills, or talent for it. The best workplace cultures are those where leaders do more than recruit top talent. They assure that people are excited about what they are doing, or are, at the very least, being exposed to opportunities that will allow them to pursue their desired position.

On Point

Before you cut loose that underperforming employee, stop and ask yourself if you’ve got them in a position that matches their skills and ignites their passion. A minor shift in position or job assignment might be all it takes to transform a dud into a tremendous contributor.

This was originally published on Eric Chester’s blog Chester on Point