Fuel Your Top Performer, Don’t Use Them to Empty

There is something I’ve seen floating on the surface of our businesses today that reminds me of a dangerous path I in particular believe will cannibalize all that we hope to achieve. We, the managers are builders, creators of our businesses. We do not want our energies wasted, but placed where they fuel the largest return because winning “should” be fun. What makes it not so fun is when underlying muddy waters make the triumphant moment less than.

My neighbor of over a decade and fellow manager runs the top, most profitable business region in his company. His success has run over many years. Recently, because other divisions were struggling, the company reassigned some of his top clients to them. Odd way to reward his success. Sadly this move was made right before bonuses and this profit movement lessened his bonus-ability.

What was even more bothersome was that a file he was sent to review, with hidden column locks accidentally not in place, opened on his screen with the entire management salaries displayed. And you guessed it, his salary was close to the bottom, while the manager who was running the unit he just had to bail out was toward the very top.

Being the moral top performer he is, he immediately notified the sender so they could lock down the columns. But the damage to his own psyche was done. Sure enough, within 10 minutes he received a call that the CEO would be coming out for a visit. Ah, justice was on the horizon, you would think. Nope, the leader actually wanted to use his abilities further by bailing them out of another situation.

How long are we going to sanction whiping workhorses while at the same time forcing them the burden of carrying on their backs the lower producers? This practice significantly drains their energy and abilities, not to mention, adds insult to injury by not giving the right return on the value they bring from their efforts. What is sure to happen is your top performers will exhaust and frustrate to a level that they will leave to find a place where they are valued. Guess what you’ll be left with—those that only know how to be carried and your business will stagnate.

Whether you are a victim of this or the unwitting creator, awareness combined with a conscious effort to drive your actions differently is our only saving grace to continue to build the successful businesses from which we all flourish. This is a discipline that must become a habit.

“…Courage is the practical form of being true to existence, of being true to truth, and confidence is the practical form of being true to one’s own consciousness.”John Galt

Ask yourself some hard questions to check and balance your own management around your team and its players:

  • Is there a particular employee you rely on most to get done what you need done, when you want it done at the level you need it done?
  • Does that same employee tend to consistently go the extra mile to deliver beyond expectation?
  • Have you ever asked that employee to support the work of a consistently lower performer because you know the quality will be higher and the deadline will be met?
  • When a top performer has a glitch where they do not meet their normal heights, do you let them know immediately that they let you down?
  • Are they a positive, glowing individual who adds to your culture?

Now think of your questionable performers:

  • Do you give them praise when they do something somewhat right so they will continue to strive to do better?
  • Do you tip toe around them or attempt to build them up, hoping they’ll get where you need them to be?
  • Can you think of the number of times you gave them a “gimme” or did their work for them?
  • Did you create a different reward structure for them in an attempt to get them to a higher level of performance?
  • Are they a talker or finger pointer who breaks down those around them so they can stand taller?

As a manager, it is important to open doors for your employees in hopes that they step through them. The ultimate outcome you seek for them is to bang down those doors themselves and in ways that blow your mind. At the same time, you may begin by drawing them a line to the goal, but at some point they should take up the flag on their own and hold the line—the sooner the better.

Remember: Your emotions are an empty motor and your own values, dictated by your ability to do good work,and your drive to do it better than others is your FUEL. Let us know what fuels you as a performer on Facebook or Twitter hash tag #performbetter.

By Shiloh Kelly, Vice President of Marketing, Red Book Solutions | 20 years Cross Industry Experience | Corporate Marketing and National Sustainability Lead, BlueLinx |Chief Strategic and Creative Officer, Limelight Advertising | Strategic Marketing Manager, Vail Resorts


4 responses to “Fuel Your Top Performer, Don’t Use Them to Empty

  1. I am especially pleased to see this article.
    It reaffirms what I have been practicing with my subordinates for years.
    Unfortunately, I have worked for employers that do not feel reward and respect are important. Most of the employers I have worked for expect their top performers to complete any task given, regardless of the size and scope of the task. Usually, before the task is completed, another task is added.
    I have only worked for one company (of five employers) in the last 20 years that followed your example of a good manager, and they were purchased by a larger company that does not believe in those principles.
    I do not believe any manager/employer should assign work that will require an employee to work 60 to 90 hours per week (or more).
    Especially when there is no recognition or satisfaction for that employee for doing an excellent job.

  2. Pingback: Key Performance Indicators Help You SWING FOR THE FENCES | Better Managers Blog

  3. Pingback: Beat the Happiness Lottery | Better Managers Blog

  4. Reference checks are tylciaply done after an interview not before, so that’s not the problem.Have you been at your current job only a very short time? If you’ve only been there a couple of months (or anything less than a year or two really), and are already looking for a new job that is a real warning sign to potential employers that you may do the same thing to them after a couple of months. Other than that, make sure you’re well dressed when you drop off your application or resume, and have at least one other person who has a really keen eye for detail look it over before you do. I’ve tossed a number of applications when working retail for too many spelling mistakes, forgetting to sign the application, filling it out in pencil, etc. As a professional now I’ve tossed even more resumes for horrible spelling and grammar or just being a really lack-luster resume.

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