I had lunch recently with a woman who is starting to hate her job. She drives to work dreading the day and by 10 AM she's plotting her escape. By Wednesday noon, she looks forward to Friday and every Sunday evening her anxiety level bubbles up because Monday's coming all too soon. The truly sad part of this story is that she's not a newly hired, uninformed employee. She's a very successful department manager who has accomplished some incredibly high profile, multi-million dollar projects. She's completed them on time, within budget and with minimal political fall-out. The problem? She loves what she does—she just hates her job.
Hmmm, how can that be? Easy. The particular responsibilities and tasks that are a part of her job are a great challenge and an enticing learning opportunity. So what’s the problem? Her manager—he doesn't seem to care that she makes things happen when no one else could. There’s no recognition, respect or acknowledgement for a job well done; she gets no additional compensation, bonus or merit award. She's been told there is nothing she can do to earn an 'Excellent' on her performance review and that she'll get an 'Above Average' just like everyone else.
Put yourself in this woman's shoes. How would you feel if you gave your job your all: met deadlines, improved budget numbers, created strong political and employee connections, only to be met with a minimal pat on the back? I know I'd burn out pretty quick and want to go someplace where I would be appreciated, respected and supported. You'd probably feel the same way too.
Now, look at this circumstance from a leadership perspective. Notice how completely foolish her manager is for not supporting and encouraging her more. She's been a star performer for years, made and saved millions for the organization and been a key player in the organization attaining its industry leadership position. Yet, he chooses to spend time dealing with the problem employees 'coaching' them back to 'average' performance. If he succeeds and re-focuses these problem employees to be 'average' again, what impact will they have on the organization? Minimal. However, if he loses a star performer or fails to keep his star performers excited, creative and moving forward, what impact does their lost performance have on the organization? Dramatic… possibly deadly.
We can't ignore problem employees, but we can limit our time trying to re-focus them for minimal positive impact. We need to deal with problems quickly then refocus our energy and attention where we can make the most progress for our organization—with our stars. If we keep our stars energized, focused, and moving ahead, they will energize, focus, and move our organizations ahead. They'll help you lead if you help them shine.
Copyright MMXIII Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC.