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Managing high performing individuals

By 3rd August 2016Blog

By Andrew Sugars, Executive Director Corporate Development

As a business leader, it is natural to want your company to be successful and, ultimately, be the best it can be, equipped with the greatest workforce you can possibly have. For this reason, managers understandably want employees who ‘perform at a high level.’ To be successful and drive the business from strength to strength, organisations need the crème de la crème – the best people with a range of personalities and different strengths.

Employees don’t just fall into two categories: high performers and non-performers. There are employees who sit in the middle and perform adequately – and that’s not only acceptable, but it’s a necessary component of any team or workforce. But “high performance” comes down to the difference between good and great. High performers break the boundaries and exceed expectations; and these are the individuals’ businesses need when aiming to aspire to bigger and better things. These kind of people often think outside the box, use their own initiative and rely on their own strengths to get tasks done. Business leaders need to be able to not only recognise high-performing individuals, but also manage them so they continue to be high performers.

The notorious Kevin Pietersen, for instance – the England cricket star who has been hailed a rare and maverick talent – certainly falls into both the high performer and “challenging” categories. His captain Michael Vaughan seemed to get the best out of him as a cricketer and as a team member. Whereas Andrew Strauss, his later captain, struggled to manage him effectively and ended up acrimoniously leaving him out of the international team – which consequently caused him and the rest of the team to suffer in the form of results.

This just proves that even the most talented individuals need nurturing and managing effectively to suit their personalities and assets.

It goes without saying that everyone is different; some like structure and constant management, whereas others thrive on autonomy and work better when left to their own devices. Allowing people to use their initiative can help creative sides to flourish. High performing individuals often encompass these traits; they work differently to the majority of people within teams, and managers need to consider the best course of action to keep them firing on all cylinders. Rising stars tend to stand out; and this can trigger disruption if mishandled. However, if managers get it right, high performers have the power to innovate and send business performance soaring. But they need managing just like everyone does, albeit in a different way.

Here are some tips for identifying and dealing with high performers:


  1. Let them control their own progression and allow them to develop at their own pace

All employees should aim to accomplish their goals. But high performers do more than that. They accomplish their goal and immediately seek out the next challenge. Manage goal driven employees by giving them stretch assignments. High performers not only want to accomplish more goals but they’ll seek out opportunities to push their skills and learn new ones. Development plans should be tailored to the individual in question. Work together to identify goals that will allow your high-performing employees to progress at a pace that suits their ambition.


  1. Look outside the organisation

 While most employees are open to training and development, high performers don’t always wait for their manager to sign them up for a training session. They are willing to invest their own time towards bettering themselves professionally. Business leaders managing high performers will want to bear this in mind, and spend time researching courses running externally to the organisation. It’s worth investing budget into this. As good as your in-house L&D provision might be, shared learning outside the confines of an organisation can further develop your high-performing employees. In addition, they can then take the lead and share their recently acquired knowledge and experience with the rest of the team, to really utilise the learning/training.


  1. Offer feedback to improve their performance

 Most employees are open to feedback – or they should be! But often the difference is how an individual reacts to the praise given and, at times, to the constructive criticism. In most cases, high performers intentionally seek feedback for self-awareness and self-improvement purposes. Managers should be giving feedback to all employees on a regular basis – just as we strive to at Servest – but this isn’t about filling out forms or ticking boxes. It’s about continuous conversation and treating people as people. With high performers, keep in mind the goal – to maintain that high performance – and adapt these conversations to suit their personalities.


  1. Inspire excellence and promote that relentless drive for quality

High performers have a focus on quality that could be perceived by others as relentless or even annoying, depending upon your point of view. Managers need to find a way to connect this endless pursuit of perfection within the organisation. It’s a good idea to allow high-performing employees to work on company wide projects. This will fuel their desire to create impact and should improve quality across the board.

Unless managers are capable of recognising and effectively managing high performers in their teams, these employees risk becoming disengaged and bored. This will consequently result in losing them to another lucky organisation. Find your talent and nurture it; and watch your business flourish as you do so.

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