How To Pluck A High Performer Out Of The Resume Pile

close up of businessman hand working on laptop computer with business graph information diagram on wooden desk as concept.jpegTim, a sales VP at a large manufacturing company, was frustrated because he wasn’t getting the results he needed from his top performers. His staff seemed incapable of working together to achieve the company’s sales objectives, and they were driving Tim crazy with their arrogant, demanding and egotistical ways. As a result, Tim felt like a failure and began to doubt whether he was cut out to be a manager.

Does Tim’s situation strike home with you? Do you have people who are star performers on their own but who also cause constant turmoil and conflict within your team? Then you probably have a lot of high maintenance high performers. These are people who are very intense and extremely task focused. They tend to operate independently of the team. If you offer information that has no direct impact on them, they don’t want to get involved. This includes meetings, associated projects, or any team-oriented action items. This results in a lack of communication within your team. The star performers seem to make up their own set of rules to play by, causing resentment among other team members.

In short, these individuals are not team players. So no matter how great their skills and experience are, they wreak havoc in your operation and often fail to achieve their full potential because of the mayhem they create around them.

How do you turn top performers into team players? Here are two solutions that have proven successful for other managers, including Tim:

Put your high maintenance high performers in charge of a team. Being in charge of a team means driving the team goals and being placed in a situation where they can lead and have some control over achieving the results. High maintenance high performers don’t necessarily want to be leaders. But as highly goal-oriented people, they will use the position if they see it as a faster, more efficient path to achieving their goals. Their commitment to achieve will also help you drive the other members of the team more quickly to success.

A way to hold top performers accountable for leading the team is to have them report the team’s progress directly to you, their manager. Such updating is best done in regular face-to-face meetings. This will enable you to know where your high maintenance high performers are in their strategy and their thinking without bogging them down with creating written reports, something they will feel only slows them down.

Create simple processes and structures so high-maintenance high-performers have the support they need from their team and other departments. Giving high-maintenance high-performers structure for example, the goals, the budget, the deadline, and the staff to achieve the goals, is important to ensure that they give you the outcomes you need. It is important to set up the structure from the beginning of the working relationship, but they need to view this structure as if you, their manager, are not telling them what to do.

When you involve your high-maintenance high-performers in designing the standards up front, you have a greater likelihood of getting their commitment and buy-in. High-maintenance high-performers are creators and innovators; they’re results driven, so by involving them in the creation, you have a better chance of getting the needed results.

Tim was a skeptical about putting the employees who seemed the most detached from their team in charge, but when he worked with them to define their role, the goals of the team, and the expected outcomes, he immediately saw a difference in their interactions with the team. What he had called teams really turned into teams. They worked cohesively, they were not divided, and they all had the same goals. According to Tim, once he discovered what his top performers really needed and gave it to them, “the results were phenomenal.” By understanding what they need, Tim created an environment for the high-maintenance high-performers where they could realize their goals and operate efficiently. As their boss, he ran interference and removed roadblocks to their success.

Follow Tim’s lead and take time to understand how your top performers behave and make a few minor adjustments to allow them to operate in an environment that supports their best work. You’ll soon find that these individuals can be easy to work with if they are given the right working situation. They will be able to accomplish more, and you’ll reap greater, long-lasting rewards as they turn into all-star team players.

Learn more about managing high performer employees and high performer bosses in Katherine Graham-Leviss’ new book, High Maintenance Employees: Why your best employees will also be your most difficult… and what to do about it (Source Books), November 2005. For over twenty years, Katherine Graham-Leviss, president of XB Consulting, has been helping companies manage and develop their talent to improve results and grow their businesses.