Pay Attention to Your High Performers
It can be easy to fall into the trap of taking your high performers for granted. Since these employees consistently deliver results, support you and rarely rock the boat, you can find yourself allocating most of your precious time to “problem” employees instead. But that couldn’t be a more serious leadership mistake. Why? High performers need and deserve a good chunk of your attention, too. Specifically, these driven types thrive on reinforcement, recognition and opportunities for growth. If you don’t consistently take the time to give them such rewards and challenges, they will jump ship and go find it elsewhere. So adopt that “love them or they’ll leave you” attitude to ensure you’re doing what it takes to keep these workers pumped up, empowered and productive. Make this discipline happen and you’ll benefit by retaining the best and brightest of your workforce.
When we first start working with new clients at MAP, we commonly notice that leaders and managers spend 80% of their time working closely with employees who have all sorts of challenges and needs while spending only 20% of their time building up and bolstering their top performers. What we try to do is help them understand the value of balancing the time they spend with both types of employees. Also, we give them some solid, proven suggestions to effectively motivate superior workers. Here are a few of those strategies:
Give them more responsibility. To keep top performers engaged, you’ve got to make sure they’re challenged. One of the best ways to do this is to assign them bigger and better projects, task them with creative solutions, or give them specific jobs that will push their comfort zone — in a healthy, fair way. It may involve additional pay or compensation, but reward doesn’t necessarily have to be monetary for the additional responsibility to be appreciated and embraced. That’s because many top performers find reward in simply being given the chance to excel — they tend to view their ability to succeed as a reward in and of itself.
Coach them. Top performers have this intrinsic need and wish to grow and develop. They can probably sit down and figure out their goals and the strategies for achieving objectives on their own, but they’ll be far more likely to succeed with some solid coaching and accountability. Create both the time and environment to do this, whether you’re providing this support yourself or through some outside coaching resources. Above all, make sure your coaching efforts are genuine in nature. Coach people so they truly grow as individuals and not for the sole purpose of growing your bottom line.
Let them mentor others. Your best employees have skills and other smarts to share, and so they should — not just because it can benefit other employees but also because it gives them an added responsibility. As mentioned above, top performers generally appreciate and excel at such increased responsibilities and when they help others, it renews and sharpens their investment in the health of the organization and its people. When given the opportunity to mentor and teach, they’ll form bonds with people and will feel immense reward when those they are mentoring make progress and succeed. The mentoring doesn’t have to be “formal,” but it can be as simple as telling a top performer to take someone under his or her wing for a few months, until improvements in performance, attitude or productivity is clear. Again, many top performers don’t need any sort of financial incentive to get excited about doing this… once they begin, they’ll find their “contribution” is a sufficient reward.
How have you spent your time inspiring and reinforcing top performers?