Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Performance Management ~ Managing Superstars

Performance Management is defined as the “total” process of creating a work environment or setting in which people can perform to the best of their abilities.  A first line manager can have a wide range of direct reports (span of control).  Generally accepted ranges are from 5 to 12.

Consider the following scenario:  You have just been promoted to District Sales Manager and have 10 direct reports.  You are told that 2 of your people have been top performers while you also have several who have been good solid performers.  You also have 1 person who has been with the company for 1 ½ years and has consistently been below average.  Who do you work with?

As a leader time is one of your most important assets.  A costly mistake for many managers is assuming that you do not need to spend time with Star performers because their results are so strong.  ALL of the team need you and your time should be balanced to reflect that. Most often, managers spend their time with low performers.  Hopefully this blog will change your opinion.  If you believe in the 80-20 rule, you realize that 80% of your business may very well be coming from only 20% of your team.  You certainly want to spend time with these valuable team members.  If you figure out that your return is exponentially larger from top performer development, it should make sense to spend at least proportional time with them.  Unfortunately in most situations, this does not happen! Coaching top performers to develop their talents and assist you in “learning” can have immense value. The new manager should do everything possible to balance their time in the field but never lose sight of their “doers”.  

Allocation of your time supporting them will help them feel good and challenge them to continue to lead the team.    Getting a better understanding of what they want to accomplish, what motivates them and any issues that they may have particular problems with.
I once had the good fortune to manage such a superstar.  This sales person had personal goals of winning “President’s Council” every year. She had been with my company for six years prior to me being promoted.  She had won President’s Council 5 years in a row! Among her numerous skill sets, she had an incredible work ethic, integrity and was always building her product knowledge.  A major drawback for her was analysis.  She was a perfect example of “Paralysis from Analysis”.    Analysis was a strong point of mine and together we were able to bring value to each other.  I am happy to say that she continued to win an additional 4 trips to President’s Council before retiring.  All I needed to do was “get out of her way”.

I was fortunate to have a strong mentor and learn quickly that I could help the overall performance of the group by keeping my top performer(s) focused. Ask yourself how you can help meet their needs and assist them in achieving their goals and your efforts will be appreciated and rewarded. During your interactions and coaching sessions with top performers try to understand what holds them back. Just because they are productive doesn’t mean they’re working at their full potential. If they have been top 10%, what kept them from being top 1%? What obstacles can you remove or help them navigate to further improve results?

Involve your star performers in many aspects of your business. This will send top performers a clear message you value their thoughts, experience, and judgment. Depending on what their goals are, work on giving them greater exposure to the team and company.  It could be management development programs, training assignments, mentoring, presentations or working a conference. Provide them with opportunities to network; get them involved with other departments and outside your immediate team structure.  Show an active interest in their personal development and provide them with the tools they need to continue learning.

As mentioned earlier, your top performers have something to teach you and your team. Never think for a moment due to your management title that you cannot learn on a daily basis. Your superstars may not be able to explain exactly what they do differently but they are doing something differently. They work in their own ‘shell’ often not realizing that they are doing anything differently.  Although these top producers typically do not like to brag about their results, you may want to have a “less productive” sales person work with them sometime and report back to you what they will take away from the experience.  Word travels fast within the group and good ideas and best practices are quickly borrowed and claimed as their own.

Eventually your top performers will move to other roles within your organization. This is a crowning achievement for any manager and is one of the greatest accomplishments a manager can bring to their organization.  The ability and dedication that a first-line manager has to helping his employees accomplish their career goals is priceless.  Also keep in mind, if you do not or cannot develop your top performers….they won’t be your top performers for long.

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