Top Ten Tips on...

Managing High Performers

20 February 2023
Effective Top Tens - Podcast
Quick, practical tips on a wide range of management and personal development themes.
How to encourage high performance and reward it - and also how to prevent it becoming a liability rather than an asset...

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Beware difficult consequences

sometimes a high performer exceeds the requirement agreed by the organisation, sometimes with the customer. But the high performers work to a level and deliver a product quality that is higher than that budgeted for and expected by the organisation and customer. And this has a negative consequences in three ways. Firstly they are exceeding the budget in order to produce the quality that they're capable of. Secondly they are setting a different expectation for the customer, a higher expectation than that, which the customer paid for. And so since the customer is likely to be delighted by this additional quality, the customer will expect that in the future, even though there is no budget for that level of quality. And thirdly, by working longer and more expensively to produce the quality that they can deliver, they are foregoing working on other areas because they're now running out of time or budget to work in those areas.


Manage perfectionists

a perfectionist is particularly prone producing higher than required performance. So it's about identifying who your perfectionist might be and asking them to reset their definition of perfection from not the best job possible, but the best job possible with the resources available. It's no good a perfectionist producing a rolls Royce from a mini.


Check impact on morale

as highly qualified and competent individuals, the high performers will have a lower morale when they are asked to perform at levels below their ability. They may feel de-skilled in being asked to work less competently than they can offer, and were trained for.



ask the high performer what they would value as a form of reward or recognition. You might be surprised that they're not going to say some things that you conventionally might think they would say, like more money or time in lieu time. And time off in lieu is, is not very attractive really these days, because if you give somebody time off, but do nothing to adjust their workload, all that means simply is when they come back they will have even more work to do. Examples that might be asked for could be to be allowed to go to a particular conference or be paid to attend a seminar, or carry out some research in the company’s time. So don’t don't mind read. Don't anticipate what people will want. Just ask them.


Don't see promotion as a reward

his is a real problem. It's what I would call a double whammy, a negative double whammy. If you use promotion as a reward, it has potentially two negative consequences. The first one is that it takes the person who's good away from the area in which they are good. So if you have a very competent social worker, who's an excellent social worker and you reward them by promoting them to being team leader, they're no longer contributing at the level at which they're most effective. Secondly, they may not be particularly good at being a team leader. You simply promoted them into that post because you feel that they're appreciated and it's a way of giving them more status and more pay. But it may take them away from something they love. into something they don't particularly value or feel comfortable or confident in.


The danger of unrequested stretch

it's quite common these days for teachers to be asked to invest in stretch and challenge f or their students. And that can encourage any student to deliver their best. But be careful if you were to impose, stretch and challenge by pushing a particular student who doesn't actually want to be stretched and challenged. If it’s unrequested and unwanted, but imposed – when does this become harassment or bullying. Suppose your manager instituted a ‘stretch and challenge’ regime for you, which was unsought and unwanted – how would you feel?


Impact of individual rewards

pay generally is always well-received as a recognition and reward by the recipient - but could it have a divisive impact on the rest of their colleagues and their team? If you are selecting an individual for some obvious recognition and reward, are you going to be public about it? And if you are, is the recognition and reward your offering, going to be seen as fair? So if you're rewarding one person for something they have done, will their colleagues think, “well, what about me? It wasn't just down to him or her. We helped in that too”. So one of the dangers of selective recognition is that it might actually have an adverse effect on the rest of the team.


Beware favouritism

if you have a good worker, a reliable worker, somebody who delivers high quality work all of the time, then there's a kind of natural, emotional temptation to trust them, and give them the more complex or demanding tasks. As a result this worker may well get the most developmental and rewarding work. You are not then providing equal opportunity within the team. So you're actually not developing the team. What’s more, the good worker will become even better and stronger, which will make the gap between the best and the rest even wider.



the cheapest, and very often the most effective way of rewarding any good worker is simply to say, “I appreciate what you're doing; that's brilliant. Well done.” So simple acknowledgement, appreciation and thank you’s may go a long way to giving the recognition and reward that they feel they deserve. People like to be and feel valued.


Avoid exploitation

if you have a really competent, a really excellent, member of staff, somebody who is your go-to reliable person, there is the danger that you overload them. And as a result, from feeling appreciated, they will move to feeling exploited. So be careful of over relying on and expecting such excellence from your better workers.

Effective Top Tens - Podcast
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Related courses & resources...

Book Review:

by Morten T Hansen

This book is an excellent and highly researched follow up and companion to ‘Good to Great’ – this time focusing on employees rather than leaders.

Top Ten Tips on...

How to check that performance is truely poor, then identify the causes and address them, avoiding common pitfalls.

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