Why Good Leaders Don’t Overload Top Performers

January 15, 2015

businesswoman sleeping on laptopWhen a top performer enters the office, managers can find it quite tempting to put these efficient and eager companions to good use. These employees often thrive in challenging and fast-paced environments, and burn out quickly when they feel that they are picking up the slack from under-performing colleagues.

The best leaders take the time to communicate and find the strategy that works best for motivating each employee, and innately high performers are no exception.

Sometimes, the top performers in the office are the ones who are most likely to experience work overload, as they often become the go-to employee managers seek out when an unexpected and critical deadline pops up.

Many top performers thrive on sudden shifts from crisis to crisis, while others find frequent changes disruptive and distracting. Managers may do best assigning the former to a permanent crisis-management role, and reserving the latter for work roles that require consistent excellence.

When it comes to managing the “to do” lists for employees, top performers generally fall into two major categories as well. Some top performers find a long list to be a fun challenge to their efficiency skills, taking great joy in accomplishing the impossible at a break-neck pace. These top performers can move through a backlog of overdue tasks in no time, and are often a great resource for creative innovations to improve efficiency.

On the other hand, many top performers can perceive a long list as insurmountable, and in fact thrive on the internal motivation of completing a set of tasks. For these employees, the best management strategy is to break down larger projects into individual milestones that can be achieved in relatively short time frames. For some, this may mean chunks small enough that several tasks can be completed in a single day, while others remain equally motivated by larger weekly or monthly goals.

Once the number of tasks the individual can handle at a time has been determined, the level of pressure they thrive under becomes the next mystery to uncover. Once again, the camp of top performers is often divided. Some individuals may work most efficiently when they have tight deadlines to meet, while others thrive in low-pressure environments. To take performance to the next level, the former should be placed under tight but realistically achievable deadlines, and the latter should be informed of upcoming deadlines as early as possible.

Whether an individual prefers long or short to-do lists with tight or lenient deadlines,   all top performers do best when their leaders are able to clearly communicate appropriate priorities. Informing employees from the beginning of projects which milestone deadlines are absolutely set in stone and which have leeway should they need more time can prevent a significant amount of stress, particularly for individuals tackling long lists.

Ultimately, top performers work best under managers who take the time to get to know their work style, and to tailor their management style accordingly. Working with top performers to maximise their efficiency will further increase their value to the organisation, and can help to prevent these go-to team players from becoming overwhelmed by their important roles. When top performers are provided with reasonable, achievable, and rewarding milestones, they will continue to experience increased motivation and tenure, allowing them to pass their prised work skills on to their colleagues.

Many thanks

Stewart Bull

Senior Trainer & Consultant

Mark Williams 3

(Image courtesy of dollarphotoclub)