Enabling high achievers: 6 steps to get the best from your best

There is much more to be gained from potential high achievers, however, leaders need to nurture and harness the potential of high achievers

There are six steps HR and leaders can take to nurture and harness the potential of high achievers – who are often underutilised in most businesses, writes Karen Gately

How well do the leaders in your business develop and leverage the high achievers on their team? Do they support these people to grow with your organisation and ultimately realise their full potential? All too often I meet talented people with the potential to achieve so much more than they already are. The leaders they work for typically fail to recognise the need to nurture and harness this potential.

Getting the best from your best people takes a deliberate and focused approach. Success depends greatly on the extent to which leaders take ownership and are able to inspire and coach their team. Work with leaders at every level of your business to support them to take the steps needed to ensure high achievers not only excel today but also are able to thrive with your business in the future.

Among the most important steps any organisation can take are these.

1. Create a compelling vision.
Articulate a company vision of the future that inspires high achievers to want to be a part of it. Share what you believe the organisation is capable of achieving and the role you need them to play in getting there.

Ensure your top talent understand the difference their capabilities can make to the success of the team and business as a whole. Spend time also working with these team members to establish a clear view of their own professional future.

Help them to identify the career goals they want to achieve and the time frames within which they want to accomplish them.  Support high achievers to recognise the steps they can take to develop the skills and gain the experience they need to succeed.

2. Drive culture. 
People are entirely more likely to thrive when surrounded by other people who are driven to succeed. A high performance culture is one in which people deliberately strive to achieve an ambitious vision.

Typically these organisations have a clear view of the direction they are heading in, have well defined plans for getting their and respond with agility to the shifting landscape in which they operate.

Creating a high performance culture starts with articulating core values and behaviours that reflect the organisations desire to excel. Results, Success, Excellence and Innovation are common values applied.

Desirable behaviours for example may include being proactive, responsive, flexible or committed to the success of the team. The culture created will ultimately be determined by the extent to which these values and behaviours are consistently applied.

3. Set objectives. 
High achievers are typically motived by a strong desire to accomplish meaningful goals. Work with them to set objectives and targets they believe are both relevant and likely to stretch their talents or effort.

Ensure the goals set include those likely to provide a real sense of fulfillment when achieved. Focus equally on developmental goals that provide the opportunity to gain experience beyond their day-to-day duties.

As Charles Kettering, American inventor and businessman, famously said “high achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation.”

4. Leverage mentors. 
Work with high achievers to help them identify mentors who are willing and able to support their ongoing development. Look for candidates who are able to share their own lessons learned and support your team member to grow through experience. Essential to the success of any relationship, including between mentor and mentee, is trust and respect.  Connect high achievers with people they are likely to admire for their successes and character.

Provide the mentee and where appropriate mentor guidance as to how best to realise value from the relationship. Encourage an approach that balances focus on immediate and longer term learning objectives. In others words encourage high achievers to leverage their mentors to learn through the experience they face each day, as well as to prepare for the steps ahead in their career.

5. Measure, Recognise, Reward.
High achievers like to do exactly that, achieve. They place particular importance on knowing how they are tracking relative to agreed expectations and value being recognised when the job is done.

Monitor progress so high achievers can see how they are going and adjust their approach if necessary. Measure results and reward outcomes that reflect the standard of excellence you are striving to achieve.

Coach leaders to make effective reward and recognition decisions. Ensure they understand the importance of upholding the standards they set in all of the decision they reach.

Help them to appreciate that rewarding substandard outcomes undermines their ability to inspire high achievers and create a high performance culture.

6. Manage poor performance.
Among the most common reasons high achievers give for leaving an organisation is frustration with their manager’s failure to manage poor performing team members.

While of course each circumstance is different, disgruntled high achievers often complain of their need to ‘carry the load’ for those around them. A lack of capability or desire from their colleagues leaves many a talented and committed high achiever needing to pick up the slack.

Drive performance management from the top of your organisation. Work with the CEO and senior leadership team to ensure a disciplined and courageous approach is taken to addressing performance challenges.

While compassion and integrity are essential, so too are honesty and accountability. Give underperformers every opportunity to succeed and then hold them accountable for the standard of contribution they are able to make.

Image source: iStock