Topic of the Week Win-Win: Managing Top Performers:
Most leaders adhere to a simple management philosophy, focus on the squeaky wheels at work. Yep, the slackers and troublemakers get all of our attention. We usually leave the great performers to their own devices. What a huge mistake. Which reminds me of a plan by the Webster, MA health board to shame owners of rundown buildings in the city. The Health Board wants to place a 4 x 8 foot sign on the sides of dilapidated buildings with the owner's name, address and telephone number.
We'll see how the billboards work, but if history is any guide, guilt and shame is effective. Heck, it worked with me when I was a kid. But when it comes to managing your top performers, you need to adopt a different approach, one that is focused on recognition and rewards. Most people in leadership struggle with the good cop role, because we're all so used to the bad cop part. Check out my three do's and one don't below. For more, check out Donna Deeprose's book, "How to Recognize and Reward Employees" (Amacom, 2007).
Do let them choose their projects. 3M and Google are two companies that have a reputation for giving employees paid time to work on their pet projects. I'm fascinated that more companies haven't figured this out. It's not only a great way to get new entrepreneurial projects, it's a great way to motivate your most creative employees. Again, I'm not necessarily suggesting that everyone gets a long leash in your company, just the people who've proven that they've earned it.
Do let employees learn new skills. Most employers focus on the jobs that employees are currently doing. They don't put nearly enough attention to letting their top performers grow and add on new skills. If there is one hallmark of a top performer, they usually are curious and want to learn. So it makes a lot of sense to create learning opportunities for them at work. Ironically, this all can only benefit your company, yet few organizations put much effort into developing new skills and expertise in their people.
Do let them lead cross-functional teams. Your employees can't help you, if you don't help your employees to develop their leadership skills. Intradepartment projects are a good place to start. But it's even better to put your employees in charge of teams that have a wide variety of skills and departments represented.
Don't hog all the visibility. This is one of the greatest gifts you can give to a person who works for you, to let them fill in for you at executive meetings. It's free, makes them feel like a million bucks and can give them important connections that they can use to help your cause down the road. Yet most managers insist on attending meetings on their own. Also in this same vein, look for every opportunity to give your people credit for great work.
Follow these tips and your employees won't get all rundown at work. They'll be totally motivated and producing great results.
Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via firstname.lastname@example.org.