Managing Superstars

Managed correctly, your high performers will be great additions to your team.

What makes high performers so important to your business?

They meet or exceed your business objectives:

  • Have a unit sales goal? They hit it.
  • Have a profitability target? They reach it.
  • Need someone to have a difficult conversation? They take it on.

They often require little assistance or guidance
Like having a tollway fast pass to success, high performers are the ones that enable such goal attainment. With superstars, you can set it and forget it. Tell a high performer that you’d like a new motorcycle customer prospecting process and one appears. There’s no torrent of inane questions like, “What should it be like?” “What can we do and not do?” or “Where should I start?” You merely tell a high performer your strategic direction and wait to see the results.

They act decisively and have terrific business instincts
Outstanding performers know most business situations don’t get better with age. Have a volcanic parts-counter-customer service situation? Your high performer rush orders the part, finds an alternative or offers to drive across town to get the item in question. They don’t say, “We’ll have to wait for the owner to see what we can do.”

They spur others to higher performance
For many, merely being in the presence of a high performer is enough to improve their performance. It’s called behavior modeling. We have a tendency to reflect the attitude, skills and techniques of standouts.

They have a laser-like focus on their objectives
With the intensity of a great white shark honing in a seal snack, superstars let nothing get in the way of reaching their objectives. They concentrate on what’s important.

Dealership Divas
Before we get too excited about high performers, we must understand there are pros and cons to everything (hey, even Zeppelin used to let Bonham’s drum solos drone on a little long). High performers are humans, even they are flawed.

They sometimes feel their performance gives them special dispensation
This means the rules only sort of apply to them. If a meeting starts at 8 a.m., they might roll in at 8:15. “Nametags? Not me.” “Really, a staff shirt? You’re kidding, right? Did you see my numbers last month?”

They can be closed-minded to guidance from others
Occasionally, high performers need some feedback, and more than occasionally they have no interest in it. High confidence often coincides with big egos.

Others may find them domineering
High performers know how multiple factors need to be arranged to achieve success. This causes a heavy handedness some may find off-putting.

They may have unrealistic expectations of others
“What do you mean you can’t come in two hours early, stay two hours late or move motorcycle crates without the aid of a forklift?” High performers work tirelessly towards their goals. When others don’t, they are dumbfounded and disappointed.

They often push well into burnout
Achieving objectives equates to high performer mental morphine. Numb to the signs of stress, they are often in denial that their behaviors are not sustainable.

When pressed for time, they can become belligerent
Look, you either get this point or you don’t.

They can be transactional in their relationships with others
The old saw about managing tasks and leading people really is spot on. People don’t like to be dispatched with all the compassion of a Quick-E Mart clerk ringing out a box of strawberry pop tarts.

So, what do you need to know in order to effectively manage high performers?

Know when to give and when to take
Is their office not quite as neat as you’d like? As long as it doesn’t look like one of those hoarders you see on Dr. Phil, let it go. Are they arriving late at staff meetings? For me, this is worth a steel cage death match. Why? Well, when you let a standout come 15 minutes late to the staff meeting, it communicates to everyone that the rules don’t really matter and you’re no longer in charge. Privately tell them you appreciate their performance and you need them to be a leader. One way to demonstrate leadership is by coming on time to the meetings. Understanding when to bend and when to take a hard line is one of the most challenging aspects for many managers. The only way to get good at this is to wrestle with these challenging issues. Avoiding situations won’t help.

Have a 360 degree perspective of their performance
Some people have all the peripheral vision of a race horse. Avoid this dilemma by evaluating their sphere of performance. You have to ask yourself not only whether they are achieving their goals, but also whether customers are satisfied? How about coworkers? Additionally, you have to ask yourself if the objectives being obtained are profitable or are they pyrrhic victories. What is the cost to the overall team dynamic?

Guide your high performers to understand that most business objectives are not an “ends justify the means” situation (for many high performers this is an epiphany). As a manager of a standout employee, you need to look at performance from all angles, not just sales.

Recognize their performance in unique ways
You should avoid the clich

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