Talented, high-energy employees can deliver spectacular results. They can also irritate other employees, be generally disruptive, and undermine your authority. Much depends on the kind ofthey receive from you. Understand the interests and needs that high achievers often have, and keep those factors in mind when you assign work, monitor performance, and offer feedback.
Here are some tips to help you:
- Give meaningful assignments. For high achievers, job satisfaction is often more important than money. Research consistently shows that top-level performers who feel they are accomplishing something worthwhile will stay with it, even when they can get more money elsewhere. On the other hand, high achievers who earn big salaries but feel their work is unimportant will eventually leave.
- Offer challenges, not frustrations. High achievers are capable of overcoming very difficult obstacles--in fact, that's what many enjoy doing most. But don't put them in situations in which you suspect they will be totally blocked; they may wear themselves (and you) out by trying to do the impossible. They will perform best when you focus their attention on problems that require determination and exceptional ability--but not magic.
- Provide direction, not directions. When assigning work, it's more effective to give high achievers general guidelines than definite instructions. They do well when they're given an overall approach and then encouraged to work out its application on their own. Ask them to assess the situation, identify key objectives and devise a strategy to meet them. Then let them go.
- Show respect and expect it in return. Acknowledge your employees' strengths and defer to them in the areas of their expertise. Recognize and praise them generously for their individual accomplishments. At the same time, insist that they acknowledge your experience and abilities as well. Mutual respect is an absolute necessity.
- When it's time to coach or correct, be firm. If you begin to notice that high achievers aren't as responsive to your requests as you would like, they may be testing you. Be clear with employees when they're out of line; offer specific changes you want to see and consequences if those changes aren't made. But end your part of the discussion by emphasizing your appreciation for your high achievers' contributions.
- Anticipate changes in the workload. Most high achievers thrive on activity. So it's important to develop an early-warning system to alert you when a project will be delayed or your usual workload will taper off. Be ready in those circumstances with special assignments to keep your high achievers interested and productive.
- Give your employees as much responsibility as they can carry. Recognize their special areas of expertise and let them make decisions in those areas. Don't make too many corrections in work you've delegated. When you have to change something, explain why. Even the smallest criticism is worth handling carefully.