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If you're like most leaders, it's likely that at some point in your career, someone has told you about the importance of cultivating your top performers.
You may have also been warned about how to avoid alienating the rest - a common pitfall for many CEOs and managers.
Here are the top five ways to cultivate top performers (‘high-potentials’) in the workplace without alienating your other employees:
1. Design and implement a mentoring program.
Allow the top performers to filter out by close observation and personal coaching. Non ‘high-potentials’ employees can also participate and benefit without feeling excluded.
2. Retool the performance assessment process.
Most performance assessments focus on FAILURE and how to ‘fix’ it.
To develop top performers, redesign the performance assessment process to focus on success – how to understand and replicate it.
Non-high potentials can still receive remedial assistance, while top performers are debriefed as to how they succeed and how to replicate that success.
"Most performance assessments focus on FAILURE and how to ‘fix’ it. To develop top performers, redesign the performance assessment process to focus on success." - Les McKeown, Founder and CEO, Predictable Success
3. Encourage peer learning and coaching.
Moving away from a ‘top-down’ training and development approach to a peer learning and coaching model involves high performers in actively assisting others (and themselves) without alienating their colleagues.
4. Train your line managers (in EI, personal communication skills and difficult conversations).
For high performers, the most important point of contact in the organization is their immediate manager. Most managers are ill equipped to communicate with high performers (and many are intimidated by them).
Specific soft skills training in emotional intelligence in the workplace, and holding difficult conversations is necessary.
5. Reward excellence.
This may seem contradictory to the need to not antagonize non-high-performers, but the #1 reason high performers leave organizations in which they are otherwise happy, is because of the tolerance of mediocrity.
Similarly the other employees (and thus the organization as a whole) cannot improve without setting (and achieving) appropriate goals.
Build a reward process (bonuses, awards, prizes, etc) that isn’t ‘rigged’ toward top performers, and include enough lower-level rewards that a reasonable subset of the whole workforce participates over time, so no-one feels excluded.