Every once in a while, you get the opportunity to lead and work with an employee who stands apart from the rest. Leaders sometimes describe these employees as someone who is “a joy to lead.” They approach their work with an excitement that is rare and inspiring. They challenge you to be a better leader and to do everything you can to help them succeed. This is what you would call a star performer.
How Do You Identify a Star Performer?
Whether you’re a first-time supervisor who has yet to lead a star performer of your own or an experienced middle manager who thinks they may have a star performer on their team, the following list of attributes should help you identify a star performer:
- They always deliver their best work on time and budget, according to the expectations you set for them.
- You don’t have to ask or beg them to go the extra mile, they just do.
- They not only accept constructive feedback; they seek it out and are highly coachable.
- Other employees turn to them for guidance, input, and direction when you’re not around.
- When a mistake is made, they take responsibility for their actions and quickly put processes into place to reduce the chances of it happening again.
- If they see a teammate struggling or a problem arising, they take the initiative to help the person or fix it.
- They have earned a level of autonomy that most other employees do not have.
- When they have the capacity or see you stressed out, they ask you how they can help.
How Do You Treat Star Employees?
When it comes to leading a star performer, it’s all about tailoring your leadership style and approach to their unique needs and preferences. Here are a few things leaders can do to manage star employees.
4 Tips for Managing Star Performers
- Find out what kind of perks motivate them
- Host one-on-one meetings regularly
- Keep them challenged with stretch assignments
- Monitor their workload and watch for signs of burnout
Find Out What Kind of Perks Motivate Them
Perks at work go beyond one’s salary or benefits and are not “mandatory.” But as many of us are aware of and have personally experienced, perks at work can be the difference between engaging or disengaging with a job and even staying at or leaving an organization.
If you’re a people leader and want to retain your star performers long-term, you need to get serious about finding out which kind of perks motivate someone and then deliver them. The perks that have been found to motivate employees include bonuses, a flexible work schedule, unlimited vacation time, and remote working, just to name a few.
Host One-on-One Meetings Regularly
Generally speaking, the purpose of one-on-one meetings is to monitor an employee’s progress, provide coaching or feedback, and proactively identify potential problems or roadblocks. If your star performer doesn’t necessarily need them to check on the status of projects, you might be tempted to forgo one-on-one meetings.
Instead of outright canceling them, change the purpose. For example, instead of meeting to get an update on everything they’re doing, you might meet to discuss things like their long-term goals or provide training and coaching on a particular topic or area of interest.
Keep Them Challenged With Stretch Assignments
Stretch assignments are precisely what many star performers need to maintain a high level of enthusiasm, engagement, and accountability. They need to feel challenged and have a greater purpose, both of which stretch assignments can provide. Ideally, the stretch assignment you give your star employee should either present them with an unfamiliar challenge, give them a high level of responsibility, challenge them to create change, or work cross-functionally.
Monitor Their Workload and Watch for Signs of Burnout
As a leader, you should monitor and manage all your employees’ workload, including star performers. Remember that even star performers can burn out, become disengaged, and eventually quit out of exhaustion or frustration. If you want to mitigate the risk of this happening, you should monitor their workload just as you would for anyone else, watch for early signs of burnout, and proactively make any necessary adjustments that relieve the employee and keep it from becoming a major issue.
While there’s no doubt that having a star employee on your team is hugely rewarding, you will inevitably be challenged to meet their needs, keep them engaged, and reduce the risk of them leaving for another job or organization. Your leadership skills, best practices, and tools need to be top-notch to overcome such a challenge. Fortunately, you can accelerate the pace at which you learn such things with the help of a leadership development program, such as those offered by the team here at Niagara Institute.