How to Manage High Achievers

If you keep high achievers focused on the win-win they will produce the win-win

You must treat the high achiever differently than the rest of your staff. You need to create growth opportunities for them. You need to give them the assignments they want.
You must treat the high achiever differently than the rest of your staff. You need to create growth opportunities for them. You need to give them the assignments they want.

High achievers are a breed apart. They are driven. They are focused. They have an unparalleled work ethic. They set a standard that is hard for all, including the owner, to match.

They also are a pain in the rear.

They tend to complain — a lot — about other workers. They are demanding. They are hard headed. They are arrogant. They are humorless. They can suck the life out of a room.

They are also very, very valuable to your business.

The most successful companies are stocked with high achievers. They are stocked with individuals who are skilled, sharp, motivated and driven to succeed. These are highly competitive people for whom losing is repulsive. GE is famous for the skill and competitiveness of its staff. Their former performance evaluation system could best be described as "Survival of the fittest." It force ranked employee against employee. It drew high achievers like mad.

It is rare to find a construction company packed with high achievers. I am not sure what the reason is. Maybe it is because construction is work which draws craftsmen. Craftsmen take pride in the quality of their work. Their goal is to create something of beauty or perfection. High achievers are not looking for perfection. They are looking to win.

High achievers notice work ethic. They value work ethic highly. It is about their only criteria for respect. They respect other workaholics. High achievers are almost always workaholics who will not waste a minute on anything that isn't directly related to work. If a high achiever displays a sense of humor it will almost always be used in a way that gets work done — such as during a presentation or speech. These are not individuals who will be sitting around enjoying a few chuckles. That would be a waste of valuable time.

Despite not finding a construction company loaded with high achievers, the successful ones always have at least one high achiever and usually more than one. Two achievers is better than one...but not for the reason you would think.

Having two high achievers on staff tends to balance things out. As they will not be of a like mind on everything each will grow more accepting of differing opinions. That will occur out of mutual respect.

One high achiever creates drama and discord. Two will change the culture of the company for the better. One will try to take over everything. Two will work as a team. Two will motivate others to elevate their games. Two will produce faster frequent wins which generates momentum. Momentum pulls people along. Others will not want to be left behind because their performance will pale in comparison.

When only one high achiever is around it is easy for other workers to tell themselves "That's just John being John. He is an aberration. He has no balance in his life."  When two people are producing great results the story changes. It is no longer about John being imbalanced; it is about what is keeping everyone else from producing at the same level. One is an exception to the rule. Two is a pattern that can and should be duplicated.

So how do you manage a high achiever?

You must treat the high achiever differently than the rest of your staff. He or she should get a bit of Superstar treatment. You need to create growth opportunities for them. You need to give them the assignments they want. Yes, you need and should show favoritism. They have earned it.

Allow me to use an analogy. Which stock are you more likely to invest in? The one that has been growing rapidly in price or the one that floats along with the market? The same thing applies to high achievers. You need to double down on them. They are going to make you more money than anyone else.

The high achiever will demand quite a bit of your attention. You can't afford to take your eye off of one. They will not wait for approval. They will take the initiative without touching base with you unless you consistently remind them to. You will need to keep a close eye on how they treat their fellow co-workers. They may be disrespectful which will lead to staff unrest, turnover and dysfunction. They may sweet talk their teammates into doing things for them that shouldn't be done.

High achievers are high ego, self-centered individuals. Given the chance they will persuade others to help them succeed. Their individual success is not necessarily aligned to your business' success. You have to keep an eye out for that. You will need to monitor their focus and priorities to make sure it is well aligned to yours.

Think of your task at hand more as channeling the high achiever than as managing the high achiever. If you keep them focused on the win-win they will produce the win-win. If you let the run free, it often leads to win-lose. They win and you lose. Stay in constant contact with your high achiever. Make sure they understand the value of doing everything right.
No short cuts. Make sure they understand the value of their teammates. The business results are produced by the team not by a single individual.

You need high achievers in your business and you want more than one. The more you can find, hire and retain the easier and more profitable your life will be.