5 Tips to Keep High Performers Happy

In our last blog, we touched on topic of happiness and well-being of employees in the workplace. In this week’s blog, I want to draw your attention to your top performers.

Your high-performing people provide tremendous value to your organization, and it’s largely your responsibility to ensure their satisfaction. A Harvard Business Review on how to lead remote performance reviews points out the fact that it is critical you value and acknowledge your top performers as it is all too easy for them to leave for another organization – even in our current tumultuous environment.

Top performing employees are super-engaged, skilled, and can jump into any situation and handle it with grace. They are driven, dependable and always willing to add another item to their long list of to-dos.

But in some cases, high-performing employees can become disengaged and prone to burnout if left with no attention and support from you. The rationale is well intended but the end result is that leaders sometimes lean too heavily on their top performers, expecting them to come through time and time again.  The reality is that your high-performing people are human beings with dreams, goals, wants and needs just like anyone else. They may be wired differently from others, but they seek the same satisfaction out of their personal and professional lives. 

Leading effectively means making sure every member of your team is engaged, energized and enthusiastic. It is easy to assume that your top performers are highly engaged and always “on.” And if you are witnessing that on a regular basis, here is how you can step in to support them to balance their relentless drive with the balance they need to function optimally.

In other words, how can you make sure your best performers are happy? Let’s look at the qualities of high performing employees to better understand this in greater depth.

Always Learning, Always Growing

High-performing people epitomize the growth mindset. They are flexible in their thinking, willing to learn from mistakes and always ready to sharpen their skills. They generate new solutions readily and are rarely satisfied with the status quo.

Positive Mental Attitude

High performers believe in themselves and their ability to find solutions. They see possibilities where others see dead ends, and they approach challenges with openness and positivity. They are accustomed to making good things happen, and they rarely dwell on mistakes.

A Willingness to Sacrifice

Your high-performing people are the ones who stay late to get the job done and don’t make a big deal out of it. They seem to always have their finger on the pulse of the organization, even on weekends and holidays. And they are willing to put the organization’s needs ahead of their own again and again.

However, as stated, leaders can easily become so accustomed to the productivity provided by high performers that they fail to realize the impact that over-delivering has on the individual’s general well-being and quality of life. Working so hard with so much dedication, sacrifice and growth takes energy that must be replenished, and the efforts made by high performers are so consistent that it can be challenging not to take them for granted.

Where Leaders Fall Short with Their Top Performers

You need to be aware of your behaviors and tendencies that might cause you to rely too heavily on your high-performing people. You may be falling short when you:

Assume High Performers Will Compensate for Others — Your best people have enough on their plates, so assuming that they will pick up the slack of lower-performing employees is unfair. It is a big mistake to presume that your top-performing people have the capacity or engagement levels to mentor, coach, support and compensate for others.

Continually Put the Best People on the Toughest Jobs — It is natural to ensure you give the most difficult tasks to those most capable of performing them. However, you should challenge your instinct to always match your top performers with the most demanding jobs. When your best people are constantly faced with the hardest work, they never get a chance to regroup and recharge which is essential to their overall happiness and well-being.  In addition, are you creating those stretch opportunities for others to grow if they are never assigned more challenging projects or initiatives?

Tend to Disrespect Boundaries — When you recognize that a high-performing employee has a knack for getting things done, you may be tempted to assign work to them that is unrelated to their job description. Yes, it’s reasonable to expect people to pitch in from time to time on projects that fall outside the normal range of expectations. But you must be careful about overstepping boundaries. Sure, your top performers can get things done, even when it is not their specialty. But all the little side tasks and projects add up and can bring high-performing people to their breaking points.

Put Them on a Pedestal and Ignore Their Basic Needs Your top performers may seem superhuman, but they are just people like you and me. They have lives outside of work in addition to a wide range of personal and professional goals. They may seem sunny, optimistic, and ever-willing to do what is asked of them, but they have bad days just like the rest of us and they need leadership that inspires, motivates, and communicates effectively. If you fail to treat your top performers with compassion and humanity, it is only a matter of time before they become burned out or potentially disengaged.

5 Tips for Leading Your Top Performers More Effectively

I have covered what not to do when leading high-performing people. Now it is time for some tips that will help you make sure your best people remain engaged and productive.

#1 — Be Flexible with Freedom

One of the most challenging aspects of leading high-performing people is allowing them the freedom to determine how they get their work done. My advice — get out of their way and allow them the flexibility to determine the methods and manner that works best for them. Obviously, this should be done within reason and in a way that does not alienate other employees. But a little extra leeway in this area can prevent disengagement and fatigue.

#2 — Give Them a Break from the Pace

Your top performers may not necessarily take time to rest and decompress on their own. So, it is up to you to pay attention to how they are feeling and to use your power to release the pressure from time to time. If you notice that someone has been putting forth a huge effort, do not keep piling it on; instead, give them a chance to rest and recharge.

#3 — Establish a Constructive Feedback Loop

Effective communication is crucial. Check in with them regularly. Ask them questions about what they need and how they could be better served by the resources you are giving them. Give constructive feedback and be sure to verbalize your appreciation for their efforts. And do not forget the most important part: listen to your people and follow through on your promises.

#4 — Set and Maintain Clear Expectations

A lack of clear expectations can lead to disengagement and burnout, particularly with your high performers. When they do not know how high the bar is set, they shoot for the moon with every single task. It is okay to let your top performers know that you do expect a lot from them but help them set reasonable expectations. Within the discussion, you should also establish priorities that will help your star employees focus on the areas where their efforts are needed most.

#5 — Provide Room to Grow and Flourish

High-performing people suffer greatly in a stagnant work environment where there is limited room to grow. Because they are equipped with the growth mindset, they need to be challenged and provided with opportunities for growth and advancement. Nurture their need to learn and encourage them to seek out organizational opportunities that allow them to expand their professional possibilities.

How Do You Treat Your High-Performing People?

What are you doing to keep your high-performing people happy? Are you guilty of any of the leadership mistakes I described?

Managing your top performers can be tricky. The steps above will help you to keep them operating at a high level.

I’d love to hear your take on this subject, so please reach out to me by calling 1-855-871-3374 or send an email at joanne.trotta@leadersedgeinc.ca.

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