5 Steps to Keep Your High Performers Happy

Many of my Executive Coaching clients are wrapping up the year and planning for next, and as part of that they are heavily into the process of performance appraisals and annual incentive compensation.  Often their thought process is filled with frustrations and challenges about the difficult feedback they need to give.  I coach my clients to find the right balance between developing the gaps and rewarding those that don’t seem to need much of your attention.

This is a great time to consider your best assets, which are too often overlooked, and also a chance to develop your skills on giving feedback. As a business leader, we are drawn into and focus on the employees that need more attention. Our instincts tell us to figure out why some of our employees are so disengaged.  We see some employees struggling and not able to perform up to the required standards and don’t meet expectations.  All too often, leaders are drawn into and must focus on the employees that need more attention.

However, we must also focus on engaged high performing employees so they will stay and become the company’s future leaders. Your high performers are your most valuable resource and yet they often are ignored.  We know who they are and we also know that they require less supervision, they don’t ask for help, they complete their tasks in an exemplary fashion, and they often pull-off stretch assignments.  And for all this superior performance, they get a quick thank you.

High potential leaders are your respected and ambitious leaders. They solve problems, are resourceful and quick to adapt to changing conditions and often lead the most important change initiatives.  These leaders will be your future senior leadership team.

match maze emersonIf you develop and recognize the high achievers, your company will:

  • Reap the rewards from their accelerated growth
  • Create a culture of inspired and motivated leadership
  • Increase retention
  • Improve succession planning
  • Reach your business goals more quickly and efficiently

As a leader you must make sure you: 

  • Tell them they’re special:  A Harvard Research Study reveals that only 40% of employers formally tell high-potentials that they have been categorized.  The same research revealed that there is a high price for this well kept secret in attrition. Of high-potentials who were not formally told of their status, 35% were looking for another job and that rate decreased to 15% when they were told they were categorized as a high-potential leader.
  • Invest in them:  Investing in high-potential leaders is a smart strategy for retention and for attracting even more leaders. The most talented leaders will be more interested in joining or staying with a company that values and invests in their best talent.


Here are five steps to keep your high performers happy, engaged and with your company for the long run. 

1)  Keep them Challenged – delegate important assignments and projects to high performers.  High performers are smart, active and curious and are always looking for something new and interesting to do.

2)  Foster Visibility – Invite them to give presentations to your peers, cross-enterprise, CEO and Board.  Give them exposure to the top decision makers. High-potentials crave high profile.

3)  Provide them with Coaches, Mentors and Sponsors – Your top performers will benefit and be further engaged in their organization if they have a formal mentor and sponsor that provides advice, career guidance and advocates for the next assignment.

4)  Create Pathways for Growth and Advancement  – If they don’t see their future and you aren’t talking to them about it, they will look for opportunities outside your company.

5)  Reward  and Recognition for their hard work – use both monetary and non-monetary rewards that are meaningful and motivating.

If you have identified your high performers and don’t have a system in place for investing in them, it’s time we talk.  I have created a program that will make substantial progress in your best assets resulting in happy, engaged and a high retention rate particularly for your high potential women leaders.

P.S. Needing to brush up and enhance your skills of giving and receiving feedback? Join me for an eLearning Event October 30th.  Click here to learn more.