If you’re not prepared to keep them challenged or forgive when they go off the reservation, your top performers and high achievers could prevent profit. It happens when the amount of time, drain, energy and effort they take to manage, costs more than their results producing advantage. Is your top performer creating more problems than performance? Are they draining more resources than those whose performance is mediocre and requires less management? These three cautions will help you uncover those answers and begin to address the real issue: a team of high maintenance top performers is not always a benefit.
It should surprise no CEO or leader that top performers can be perceived as prima donnas. They are teasingly referred to as high maintenance, but in many cases, their sales alone are paying the office building mortgage. Is the team designed this way on purpose or because the one top performer has zero tolerance for anyone else taking the spotlight? Does one salesperson hog the resources available so that no new person can come in and prove their sales prowess? If so, the one top performer is handcuffing your organization. Yes, they may value the spotlight, adore the recognition, and love to be the center of attention, as if the only act in a well-attended circus…BUT… what do you do if they decide to go work for the competition? Reign in the high maintenance act and be cautious about training them how to continue the behavior. Set boundaries. Insist on certain standards and dole out consequences for out-of-line actions, just as you would with any other employee. This also sends a message of value to the remaining members of the entire team.
As a leader, you must at times, make changes best for the business, but when you do, the largest chunk of your time in the transition, is spent with the top performer, talking them through how much they resist said changes. Who’s really leading the business? If the top performer is constantly whining, frequently complaining, and “all about me-ing” with no regard for the needs of others, the business, or customers other than his or her own book of business, this behavior is costing you more than it needs to and could be costing more than you realize. Things change. Client needs adjust. Lines of products are revised or discontinued. Yet, with every change a top performer must determine the new path to success and high levels of achievement achieved with the old way of doing things. That’s life and a skill that comes with knowing how to be successful, versus merely repetitive. If the top performer(s) you lead is balking and digging in his or her or their heels, it might be more profitable to invest time in hiring six B players to replace the one performer who enjoys being a problem.
Every organization who values team members makes minor, or even major, adjustments for individuals. Whether the adjustments are in compensation, bonus pay, flex time, or what is considered a sick or vacation day, making these adjustments is one more way to show an employee “we hear you and we value you”. Start turning the office or company or division upside down to accommodate someone who never seems to be happy, and it becomes a different issue. The human memory is short and making one change to accommodate one person is fine, but when changes are then made to accommodate for the original change, followed by changes made to mitigate the damage caused by the changes made to accommodate the change…we tend to get lost. It’s not unlike lying and then having to create more of a story to cover up the lie told in the first place. Easier to be consistent… not to mention truthful. J If the top performer you lead or manage requires adjustments of significant and constantly increasing, or self-serving, nature, and you fulfill each request and requirement, you risk losing good people, devaluing others, creating conflict, showing undue favoritism, and creating a culture wrought with real morale problems. Small adjustments are fine. Big adjustments over and over are costly and need to be mapped out in consideration of the rest of those who work there.
A top performer has great value. A top performer who believes they have more value than the bottom line reflects, is a problem with a fairly easy humbling exercise fix. A top performer who feels entitled to revolve the company around her or him, likely feels this way due to the three cautions just mentioned. Instead of creating your very own problem that you then must spend time fixing, managing, or replacing, avoid creating and fostering these kinds of behaviors in the first place. Everyone wants a high performing employee and at the same time, their performance and the behaviors that sometimes come with their efforts, shouldn’t cost (in all forms!) the company more than they produce in profit.
Monica Wofford, CSP is a leadership development specialist who coaches, consults with, and speaks to leaders of all levels, building their skills, emotional intelligence and authenticity. Author of Contagious Leadership and Make Difficult People Disappear, Monica may be reached at www.ContagiousCompanies.com, www.MonicaWofford.com or by calling 1-866-382-0121.