Good Employees Still Need Guidance – Do Not Neglect Them!
Leaders are busy people. Whether running a start-up or the division of a Fortune 500 company, a leader has a lot to do while juggling a lot of responsibility. The tendency is to focus on issues and problems that need immediate attention, or problem employees that need redirection or training.
Lost in all this activity is the chance to devote sufficient attention to your productive employees, who are hitting assigned goals and turning in quality work. They may even be innovating on their own initiative. You love these people, but with all the fires you must fight each day, you neglect them. This is a mistake, because neglect leads to disengagement, and potentially to departure for “greener pastures.”
How to best give these great performers their due?
Recreate the circumstances when these employees first joined your team. Have a reacquaintance program where you talk with your employees as you did at the beginning of their employment. Tell them again how you plan to grow your part of the organization. Discuss their role in that. Talk about their past successes as a foundation for their future in the organization. Reintroduce them to key people in other groups, just as you did when they joined. Read more about re-onboarding here.
Talk about their future. Help them plan for it.
You need great employees to grow your organization, so you need to retain the people who are stepping up and contributing at a high level. Recognize their achievements publicly, especially to your boss, and to peers in other departments.
Concurrently, discuss their own desires for advancement. Where do they want to go? What do they want to do? Do they have compensation goals that they cannot realize in their current position? Make it clear that you are not going to stand in the way of their progress. In fact, develop with them a plan to further their career.
As the group leader, you are accountable for ensuring that your employees succeed. If your employees fail to achieve their goals, part of the blame lies with you! Conversely, if people in your group keep getting promoted, might great people not beat a path to your door to replace those who are departing? We think so.
Set clear and measurable goals/expectations.
In our work with employees at all levels, we emphasize personal accountability. We teach people how to accept it, and to appreciate and enjoy the results of it. Your great employees are probably already exhibiting personal accountability, but you can help cement the mindset:
- Set clear goals. Be explicit about exactly what results you expect.
- Outline your expectations through one-on-one conversations.
- Do not assume that an employee turning out high-quality work knows your expectations. They may just have been lucky in guessing what you want, and may miss the mark next time!
- Involve them in the development of the goals and tasks to give them ownership.
- Delegate authority to them. Let them stub their toe while learning to manage new responsibilities. Help them through their mistakes. Less punishment, more guidance!
Appreciate loyalty, but emphasize performance.
Loyalty is wonderful, but an employee must be effectively fulfilling their role and adding to the creation of a positive work environment to exhibit true value. By spending more time with high performers, you will emphasize this. Loyalty without contribution adds little to the pursuit of your team’s goals.
Measure and review results.
You should measure, track and review results with every employee each month, not just the laggards. Reviewing every employee’s progress toward mutually set goals is much more effective in building the team culture you seek.
Our message, as base, is for you to reinforce great behavior whenever you see it both privately and publicly. You want to sustain a culture of accountability where employees keep themselves engaged, seeking ownership. And those “merely average” employees you are currently spending so much time on will watch all this go on, and self-select themselves to adopt the same productive mindset. (We have seen this happen more times than not.) They will do this once they see you acknowledging and rewarding the behavior you prefer in others.
If you need any guidance on how to achieve this refocusing of your leadership energy, talk to Brooke or Dave about it.