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Jesse Lyn Stoner


Develop Your Team: the Truth About Bell Curves

Intelligence might be predictable, but performance is not

Published: Wednesday, January 27, 2016 - 15:06

When applied to people’s intelligence, the theory behind the bell curve says that most people will be average, with a small percent being top performers and a small percent being losers. But when it comes to performance, the truth is the bell curve only exists if you believe it does.

Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson showed this 50 years ago. In their famous study, they gave students IQ tests to predict their ability to achieve and then shared the results with their teachers. As expected, students who scored the highest had achieved the most at the end of the school year.

However, the IQ scores had actually been assigned randomly and had nothing to do with the students’ true potential. This became known as the “Pygmalion effect.”

There have been many studies over the years that support the conclusion that although formal intelligence might be distributed on a bell curve, the potential for achievement is not.

When managers believe a direct report has the potential for high performance, they become more invested in that individual. They are more attentive, more encouraging, and provide opportunities and resources as needed. In other words, managers naturally become invested in developing their team.

It makes sense (cents) to develop your team

Offering development opportunities is a key driver of employee engagement across the board. And according to a large global study, this is so important for millennials, you will quickly lose them unless you give them the opportunity to grow and learn.

It costs a lot less to develop your team than to hire externally. It’s estimated that finding, hiring, and fully training new employees usually costs about 1.5 to 3 times their salaries.

Recent research shows that although external hires get paid about 20-percent more than internal employees who do the same job, they get lower marks in performance reviews during their first two years.

Development must be a key responsibility of every manager

Managers must understand that developing their teams is as important as delivering results.

It’s not enough to simply send people off for some courses. Development is about what happens on the job every day.

Too many talented individuals get missed when managers aren’t paying attention to their people. Unless you are committed to developing your team, you will lose some of your best people before you even notice them.

A “sink or swim” attitude doesn’t work. Young people entering the workforce, no matter how good their education and no matter how bright they are, need to be supported in learning how to execute their job responsibilities, and how to navigate the system and the informal practices embedded in the culture.

Those who are recently promoted or have been transferred to a new position need support in getting up to speed with their new responsibilities as well as how to work with their new team.

Don’t overlook the “sleepers,” people who are quietly doing their job unnoticed. There have been many cases where people who have been overlooked for years, when put in the right positions and with the right support, have provided the leadership that was exactly needed.

Toss out your assumptions about the bell curve. Have you really given everyone the opportunity and support they need to develop?

When managers understand that building capabilities is as important as delivering results, you won’t be forced to look outside for winners: You’ll have a ready pool of talent within.

First published Jan. 11, 2016, on Jesse Lyn Stoner's Blog. © 2016 Jesse Stoner


About The Author

Jesse Lyn Stoner’s picture

Jesse Lyn Stoner

Jesse Lyn Stoner, founder of consultancy Seapoint Center, has worked with hundreds of leaders using collaborative processes to engage the entire workforce in creating their desired future. Stoner has authored several books including Full Steam Ahead! Unleash the Power of Vision (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2nd rev. ed. 2011), co-authored with Ken Blanchard. Stoner is recognized by the American Management Association as one of the Top Leaders to Watch in 2015 and by INC Magazine as one of the Top 100 Leadership Experts. Stoner has advanced degrees in psychology and family system, and a doctorate in organizational development.


nice and positive start to 2016

It's always necessary to do your utmost to improve all sections of your work environment.

I have always divided and accesed what is in front of me into 4.

Product, Process, Human and Machine

It would be criminal not to try and improve the Human part 

As you you have tried to improve the product, process and machine.

and still you the human factor still seems to be left behind

Look at it this way.... How many engineers? How much time and money was put into

improving the product, process and machine?

and How much time and money was put into the human (the worker/manager)?

Anyway something to think about....