Leading a Leader

By February 2, 2015Career, Leadership

To the Exceptional Performer:

Congrats on an exceptional review! Whether it’s for a job well done or teeing up a future promotion or salary increase, there’s a lot to celebrate. After you grab that pat-yourself-on-the-back cocktail, let’s dive in to the work ahead.

An exceptional review likely signals there’s more opportunity for you and greater contributions you could make within the organization.

With any performance review, no matter the rating, a few key points still stand for you to consider:

  • First, look for the feedback themes. For example, are there improvements in overall communication you can make? Is there more leadership you could take within your current role? How about strategic big-picture thinking? Where’s the opportunity?
  • Think about where you’d like to head within the organization or in your career. Do you aspire to lead a team and haven’t yet? Would you like to spearhead a key project or initiative within the company? Do you want to tack “Director” or “VP” on to your title? Think about what’s most important to you.

Once you’ve considered the points above, what’s your plan? Put together a few measurable actions to help you to make those improvements, share your thoughts with your boss, and work together to make those agreed-upon goals your focus for the upcoming six months.

As part of the conversation with your boss, discuss what’s next for you and where she/he sees you heading in the next 6-12 months. Be proactive about this conversation and subsequent follow ups, so you have a clear picture of what opportunities may be on the horizon. This ongoing conversation will help you to evaluate the possibilities ahead, the potential timing, and whether it aligns with your career and salary aspirations.

While your company and boss are important factors in your career growth, the person who will ultimately get you where you want to go is you.

To the Leader:

If you have one or more exceptional performers on your team, it sounds like you’re already doing a lot of great things to facilitate their growth. Exceptional performers seek challenge along with significant professional and salary gains. Top performers can feel stagnant in their growth rather quickly. They prefer not to rest too long on their accomplishments and instead seek out significant responsibilities to progress as quickly as possible. At the point they may see a slowdown in their growth or salary trajectory, they begin to seek opportunity elsewhere – or at least leave themselves open to recruitment. Retention then may become an issue.

With your top performers, here are a few thoughts to help facilitate their growth:

  • First, develop a real action plan with your top performers to help them make improvements in the areas you identified with them. Partner with them to improve upon some key development areas and help them put more of their strengths to work.
  • Evaluate where you are headed next. Do you see a promotion in your own future? If so, succession planning is key here. Identify the individual(s) on your team who you see as likely successors to you and begin delegating key responsibilities of your own to them. Even if your own movement isn’t on the immediate horizon, give your top performers key projects and initiatives to lead and then provide them with feedback on their performance along the way.

Worried about what that will leave you to do if members of your team are doing your work? No worries. It’ll give you more time to focus on your own development and time to coach and lead your team.

  • Invite your top performers to key meetings they may not have access to. Give them opportunity to participate in dialogue they otherwise wouldn’t. This will help to expand their perspective while providing you with feedback and insights you wouldn’t receive otherwise.
  • Make professional development a key one-on-one topic with your top performers. Even if a promotion isn’t likely for them in the next six to twelve months, knowing that you’ve partnered with them and regularly talk about their development is an important retention measure. This regular dialogue opens a door and builds further trust with your team members. Should they decide it’s time to move on to a new position, you’re less likely to be blindsided and more likely to participate in a conversation about their decision.

So, what do you think? Feel free to reach out and share your thoughts and questions.

Next week, we’ll take a look at the question many of us (including The Clash) struggle with at some point in our career: “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”

File:Should I Stay or Should I Go UK.jpg

– Jackie Simon

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