How to Manage a High Performer

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High performers are motivated by a variety of formal benefits such as total compensation, specialized perks, and job titles as well as a host of informal status symbols such as ownership of key projects or clients, budget size, visibility to leadership, and the number and geographic spread of headcount managed.

Regardless of which power currency an organization trades on, however, professional growth is the fuel that enables high performers to grasp the brass ring. Effective managers will set them on the path to success with these four actions:

  1. Tell them both publicly and privately that they are high performers.
  2. Develop them by providing access to special resources such as training, mentors and key projects that help them leverage their skills in support of organizational goals.
  3. Motivate them by making it clear what they will receive in terms of pay, perks, and status in return for operating at a high performer level.
  4. Challenge them by clarifying what they need to consistently do to remain in that special peer group.

It’s also important to formalize the direct link between performance management and professional development through role-specific learning targets. When you measure employees on a competency like personal learning, learning agility, or professional ambition at a meaningful rate i.e. at least 10% of the overall performance score, you all but guarantee that they will establish development plans and work with their managers and other stakeholders to meet or exceed those plans.

The rationale is simple: every job has a list of tasks required to meet expectations. High performers consistently exceed expectations by adding to their knowledge base and deploying those new skills in a measurable way. In other words, year over year they are more valuable in December than they were in January. This strategy also helps employees map out their careers and prepare for the next role. As a manager, your job is to help them make that journey.

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