The Third’s Theory

If you are anything like me, you have spent many days wondering why you work harder than many of your peers, who seem to be content with letting you be the best and them taking the back seat in the bus.

Which third are you?

The answer that many people provide to us is that we do it for ourselves, our name, a higher purpose, the list goes on. I do agree that these can all be true however there seems to be a truth here that they miss, or just fail to mention, every time. That is the focus on the other people, not to berate them or put them down but to understand what is going on so that we can lead them and help them perform to their fullest. This is where The Thirds Theory comes into effect.

I remember my father teaching me this principle growing up. Since then I have found it to be true at every step of my growth and development in my journey. My father saw it at the Police Department that he served, I saw it in the U.S. Marine Corps and again at school as I earned both my undergrad and graduate degrees, and every place of employment I have worked at.

OK so here it is…

The Third’s Theory states that in any organization…

  • 1/3 of the people should not be working there,
  • 1/3 of the people need to be retrained but have great potential, and
  • 1/3 of the people are right where they need to be and carrying the burden.

Why is this so important? Well that depends on where you are among the thirds.

If you are among the peers and realize this is not where you should be then, frankly, do everyone a favor and look for other employment or seek a transfer to a part of the company that might better suit you.

If you find yourself among your peers and realize you need to be retrained then seek opportunities to do so with either your supervisor or with those that you know among your peers who are right where they need to be.

If you find yourself in the third that is right where you should be then Congratulations! You need to find ways to start immediately training the other 2/3’s of your peers. You are in no place to decide who should go home, however if you know you are in the top third then so do they, therefore – Start retraining them on all the pieces of what you do to improve the overall performance of the team.

If you find yourself as the supervisor – then this should be quite significant to your operations during the next two weeks. If you can handle these 3 simple steps in the next few weeks you should see a raise in performance among your entire team. Here is what you need to do…

  1. Identify who are in the top third.
  2. Have the top third begin re-training the other two-thirds. At this point it is not necessary to label the third that needs to go home. Through the re-training they will identify themselves and you will have something to evaluate.
  3. Focus on re-training.

Take Action. After reading this – immediately identify which third you are in, decide what you are going to do to help the team, and then speak to your team about how you can help them grow as well.

2 thoughts on “The Third’s Theory

  1. Very interesting Tim!

    What’s surprising that came to my mind after reading is to think that although someone could be a complete “first third” in one organization, if they’re humble and willing enough to admit it and move on, they could very easily become the “3rd third” in a different organization.

    The key to all of this?


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