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5 Min Read

10 Tips for Managing High Performers

Genevieve Michaels

A high performing employee is every manager’s dream… right? 

Well, yes—everyone wants to work with talented people who do great things. 

But these employees aren’t necessarily easier to manage. It still takes a great manager to bring out their best, and keep them feeling appreciated, inspired, and engaged. 

The key to working with high performers — and avoiding burnout — is strong relationships, open communication, and a growth-focused mindset. To put that into practice, you’ll need a considerate, thoughtful performance management strategy. 

Here are ten high performance management best practices to keep in mind as you get to know that superstar employee. 

Autonomy and flexibility first 

The worst thing you can do to a high performer is micromanage them. Instead, trust them to decide where, when, and how work gets done.

These employees know how to maximize their own productivity and deliver the best possible work. Give them space to innovate and experiment — they might even surprise you with some new, creative ways to do things. 

Clarity on goals and expectations

Clarity always matters, but it’s crucial for helping these people work at their best. They find the satisfaction of a job well done rewarding and motivating, so it’s essential that they know when they’ve met expectations.

You should also make it extremely clear which objectives are ‘stretch goals’ and which are baseline output expectations. Overemphasizing ambitious goals can cause people to try and reach them ‘at any cost,’ leading to poor quality output or even unethical behavior. The objectives and key results (OKR) framework is a good method for achieving goal clarity. 

Build trust and psychological safety 

Make sure high performers feel safe sharing how they’re really doing, the good and the bad. Because they’re so competent, it’s easy for these workers to keep chugging along, saying yes to things, and adding even more work to their plate. 

You may not even notice when a high performer is burnt out or disengaged. They’re unlikely to volunteer that information, and they know how to keep getting things done, even when they’re unhappy. Instead, you need to actively ask, stay in communication, and show them that sharing doesn’t come with negative repercussions. 

Use regular check-ins for feedback and listening

Regular check-ins between employees and managers are the mechanism through which you’ll build these strong relationships.  

Offer feedback at every single one of these sessions. These workers want to grow, evolve, and do better. Feedback is the data they need to inform that process and keep it aligned with their personal and company goals. 

At check-ins, listen to their ideas and feedback, too. These employees likely have ideas for new—and possibly better—ways you could get things done. Be open to those ideas, even when they’re not related to their role.  

Give them the right work, not the most work 

Have you heard the saying “the reward for good work is more work”? Don’t let your high performers feel like that. 

Resist the temptation to dump every important task on them because you know they can handle it. They might say yes, but they’ll end up feeling exploited, drained, and burnt out if continuous performance is the expectation. Instead, give them projects that are well-suited to their career strengths, interests, and goals. 

Surround them with people they’ll learn from

Don’t use a strong worker to carry others’ weight. It’s not fair to place a high performing person into an average or low performing environment, in the hopes that they’ll elevate it. They may even feel pushed into unpaid leadership work, as others come to them for assistance. 

Instead, make sure they’re building relationships with people who can inspire them and support their career goals. If you can’t provide that within your team, brainstorm how you can offer it elsewhere within your company. 

Make sure others don’t feel left out

If other employees feel like they’re watching from the sidelines what a high performer gets all the glory, a toxic environment can quickly develop. 

Instead, build strong relationships with every member of your team. Make sure it’s obvious to each one of them that you see and appreciate their unique strengths, and that everyone has access to feedback, opportunities, and praise. 

Recognize their hard work and results

High performers thrive on praise. Never let them feel like their hard work is unnoticed or underappreciated. 

Get to know your high performing employee, so you can understand what kind of employee recognition will feel most meaningful to them. We’ve shared plenty of great ideas for employee recognition elsewhere on our blog

Envision paths for career growth

These employees are future-focused and career-oriented. You will lose them if they don’t feel like they are developing, being challenged, and seeing real opportunities for advancement.

At your regular check-ins, get to know where your high performers want to go in the long term. Then, put effort into giving them work that lines up with those goals. That includes looking out for suitable projects, learning and development opportunities, and internal opportunities elsewhere in your organization.

High performance management, driven by data

Managing high performers is all about strong relationships, open communication, and continuous feedback. 

Providing that level of performance management used to pose a heavy administrative burden. With 15Five’s employee engagement and performance management system, that’s changed. 

Set up recurring check-ins, and regular review cycles in our holistic system designed for fairness. By storing, tracking, and analyzing your findings, we help you understand where your employees are at, so you equitably make workforce choices that uplift your entire company. 

Get a demo and make flexible, insight-driven performance management a reality at your organization today.