Top Performer’s Club
You always get the job done club!
Wait..But your production took a nose dive! What is wrong?
In Daniel H. Pink’s # Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us…Scientists have long known that two main drivers power human behavior – the biological drive including hunger, thirst and sex and the reward-punishment drive . However in 1949, Harry F. Harlow professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin, argued for a third drive – intrinsic motivation – the joy of the task itself.
What is intrinsic motivation? It occurs when we act without any obvious external rewards. We simply enjoy an activity or see it as an opportunity to explore, learn, and actualize our potentials.”
(Coon & Mitterer, 2010).
If there is one thing that I have learned about Top Performers is that their performance is tied beyond the carrot at the end of the stick. It’s the intrinsic motivation that keeps them at the top month in and month out. It’s the joy of the task itself. If we to take the time to learn about their intrinsic motivation they may not feel forgotten.
The Forgotten Top Performer. Who are they? Every organization has them. It may be you, it may be someone you know, it may be the line cook, the customer service rep, the delivery driver, the top performing sales rep or manager. It is those individuals that always get the job done. But are sometimes forgotten for the very exact reason they are a top performer; because they get the job done.
That is they are forgotten about until they don’t perform. They despise it when either the performance phone call, the call into the office or famous email comes down the chain. Sure the first time or month it happens a hall pass may be issued. A second time or month follows its crisis point. This is when communication may drive them nuts!
“What happened to your month? Is everything ok? You are forgetting things a lot. “
I have heard countless Top Performers say, “Where was the Good Job when I was doing well?. It’s at this critical moment where you either make this Top Performer feel like a person or a number.
Another cardinal mistake and this comes from managers (myself included), “But they are always a Top Performer, you don’t have to worry about them.” Is it really true you don’t have to pay attention to them? By the time you do pay attention is it too late?
When I ran one of my first sales teams I had a top performer on my team that accounted for nearly 1/5 of our total team production . Then it happened. His numbers began to go down. I approached him about it. He blew up at me. I was completed blindsided. He went on to say, “ All you care about is the numbers! All you care about is hitting your goals. You don’t care about me.” These comments sliced through me like a knife. Why? He was right. I never really took the time to know him because I was too busy coaching the low performers, because, he didn’t need the attention because he was getting the job done. I forgot about him.
I pulled him aside to the breakroom and asked him what was going on. What he shared with me blew my mind and debunked all my philosophies in regards to how to manage and lead top performers no matter the industry.
Myths about Top Performers.
- Top Performers want to be left alone-
- They are self motivated and don’t need pats on the backs. There results and seeing their name in lights is enough.
- They just want to do their job.
The truth to be told was, yes he appreciated that I gave him autonomy, but sometimes he would appreciate me asking was there anything I can do for him like I did the other reps.
He told me that he saw many things that the company could improve on, but no one ever asked him.
He told me that it blew him away that he would out produce everyone , but not one teammate truly ever asked him how he does it consistently each and every month.
I sat there and listened to him. All this time I thought the incentives, the trips, the prizes that he won was what kept him motivated. It may have to an extent, but it is that third driver, the intrinsic motivation that kept him performing at a high level. It was validation of his commitment to excellence. He cared about the team. He cared about the company. Unfortunately, at the time I just never took the time to ask. When he shared all this with me I had to take a hard look in the mirror and evaluate myself and how I lead.
Keeping top performers is not easy. But the truth is the lesson I learned from this rep has taught me if you want to create a culture that thrives and retain top talent, you must not forget anyone… Even the Top Performers.
Here a few valuable lessons in how not to forget Top Performers and how to tap into their intrinsic motivations.
- Get to know them! Who are you top performers? Why do they do what they do? Knowing your teammates beyond just what they put up for numbers or high level of standards in which they conduct themselves is just as important as knowing your customers.
- Create challenging work or work that allows them to contribute on a higher level-this works two ways. It allows you duplicate successful behaviors and allows the Top Performer to contribute to the team in other ways and develop mastery in what they do.
- Create Exposure for them– Sometimes it’s not just about giving someone a pay Sometimes a pay raise isn’t possible. A simple thank you card or public recognition for how they achieved XYZ can go a longs way. Knowing their hard work and efforts is noticed by the company and leadership can go further than any sales contest prize. Find ways to edify them to your team, other departments and upper management.
- Give regular feedback-Don’t wait for the annual company party to recognize someone. Ask them their goals and ask how you can serve them and help them achieve them.
“The role of a creative leader is not to have all the ideas; it’s to create a culture where everyone can have ideas and feel that they’re valued.”
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