Celebrate Top Players
Companies are often surprised when their top people leave.
Based on my personal experience working with top performers in both sport and corporate America, people tend to leave for the four reasons listed below. Leaders need to be exceptionally vigilant about paying attention to top performers and staying keenly aware of what might entice people to leave.
Provide adequate recognition
When someone is exceptionally good at what they do, recognize it. Compensation is the best way to do that. Whether it’s through raises, promotions, scholarships or signing bonuses, money says exactly how much the organization values you.
Public compliments and praise are also a must, because valuable people want to know they are valued! Every three years, re-evaluate your top people and make sure their pay and appreciation are high. This might seem silly, but there are always outside organizations watching and waiting to cherry-pick them from you. If they feel valued, they are much less likely to leave.
Put them on a good team
Top performers want to be on a winning team. They want to be challenged by better players and they want to chase a goal that has meaning and purpose to them.
Do not bench them while focusing on remedial players. Do not ask them to play “down” to a level they have exceeded. That’s a sure and fast way to get them reading the “Help Wanted” ads. Good players want to be in the game, so if you can’t physically play them, use their minds and ask them for advice when you are reorganizing the team or making strategic decisions. Use them to help guide the team, but don’t place the burden of a dysfunctional, low-performing group of people onto the shoulders of your star player. It’s not their role to fix poor performers or define the vision for the team. That’s up to the leader.
Coach them well
All great performers, whether they are Tom Brady or Lady Gaga, need a good coach.
Top performers have an innate desire to be better, so they long for a leader who will help them get there. Top players are an investment, and that’s why they are at the top of the draft pick. Sports pays top dollar for top athletes because these managers know good players equal business profitability.
Give your star players independence and space to grow, but don’t leave them in the outfield indefinitely. Eventually they will feel unappreciated, undervalued and will begin looking for someone who notices their potential.
No toxic environments
The last thing a good player wants is to be tossed into a toxic environment. Like many of you, I, too, worked in a difficult, poorly managed department, and it was a painful few years of my life. The stress of being in a toxic culture can do a number on your health (hence, why I became such an advocate for teaching people about stress).
Top performers are natural targets for blame. It’s easy to plop a high performer into a toxic environment, give them unreasonable goals or limited support, and then blame them when things go south. Bad companies are notorious for doing this to people. But high performers take their performance to heart and often have a great deal of introspection (a skill which also helps them be good performers), and these painful career moments are often extremely hard to bury.
Low performers blame others. High performers often overly own failures and can permanently be scarred by bad teams, vindictive leaders or toxic environments.
So if you’re trying to determine how to attract and retain talent, my advice is: watch the next NFL draft pick.
Teams pick the most talented players, offer them good money, and endorse them like crazy. Then the athletes choose the team to play on based on the incentive package, reputation of the team, quality of the coaching staff and the potential of the environment they are walking into.
Keeping talent on your team isn’t rocket science. Just value them, give them excellent coaches, put them with other great players and keep them out of harm’s way. February 25, 2018.