What’s a key dragger of success?

Because of the Pareto Principle, there are almost always one or two critical factors that matter the most when you are trying to create value. These are key drivers of success.

For example, alignment is a key driver of successful execution. Unless your team can work together not only internally but also externally with stakeholders, you are unlikely to execute well.

On the other extreme of the Pareto scale, there are key draggers of success. These are the most important factors driving failure in anything. Rather than creating value, key draggers destroy value.

By eliminating key draggers, we can create value. Therefore, eliminating key draggers can be a great opportunity.

You can find key drivers and draggers in almost any context. For example, in a typical salesforce, there would be a small percentage of salespeople who make the highest volume of sales. They are the key drivers of success for the force.

On the other extreme, there would be a small percentage of salespeople who are so awful that they drive away customers and destroy value by ruining relationships. They are the key draggers of success, or you could call them the key drivers of failure. It’s a great opportunity to weed them out.

There’s a famous story about Southwest Airlines that illustrates this point. They did a study and found that 80% of customer complaints were generated by the bad behavior of 20% of their staff, who were rude and unpleasant. These 20% of bad employees were the key draggers of customer satisfaction. By identifying and weeding them out before they were employed, they could increase value.

To eliminate rude employees, Southwest first analyzed the personality characteristics of these bad employees. They also analyzed and contrasted them with the personality characteristics of successful employees, who were key drivers of customer satisfaction.

They isolated certain characteristics that were common in successful employees, such as empathy, temperament, cheerfulness, and sensitivity. On the other hand, the bad employees were non-empathetic, rude, cranky, and insensitive.

Southwest then invented a clever method to identify employees who were well endowed with key drivers, and to immediately eliminate the duds.

All new employee candidates were first invited to a group session. Each person was invited to give a short speech to the entire group, facing the others who sat in the audience. Southwest didn’t care how well they spoke. In fact, virtually all of them were nervous and spoke poorly.

Southwest focused on the reactions of audience members. Those who displayed empathy for the struggling speakers, who encouraged and cheered them on, who sympathized with their struggles, who patiently put up with their poor speaking abilities with good humor, were judged to be good candidates.

Those who were critical of the speakers, who showed impatience with their poor performance, and a clear lack of empathy were screened out.

Do you know what the key draggers of success are in your organization? If you don’t, you’re missing a great opportunity to weed them out and create value.