Helping Top Performers Improve – Part One: Overcoming Reluctance

Are you reluctant, hesitant or fearful of giving constructive feedback to top performers?

If a leader’s job is to:

  • create a success-oriented work environment that employees can thrive in
  • help employees improve, regardless their level of performance

That includes all employees, even your top performers, right?

Many leaders understand and accept that position, but struggle to do it, especially when it requires delivering constructive feedback to their best folks.

The reasons for their reluctance vary.

From Deliverer concerns like:

  • not wanting to appear unappreciative of a top performer’s stellar performance
  • being uncomfortable giving them constructive feedback – “they know more than me”
  • having the luxury of not giving any feedback and still meeting team goals

To Receiver concerns like:

  • my top performers don’t appear to want feedback and might not receive it well
  • fear that after delivering the feedback, their performance will decrease

While no universal approach exists that is effective, every time, for everyone, there are general guidelines to follow. Applying these rules to the concerns above will help decrease your reluctance.

Deliverer concerns

  • You won’t appear unappreciative if, over time, you’ve delivered enough appreciative feedback that they value, for their stellar performance. Have you?
  • You cannot wait until you are comfortable. Your comfort level will only increase after you deliver this feedback, manage responses and customize the approach.
  • YOU have areas of expertise that they don’t. Look for ways to apply your expertise to help them display their expertise and close skill gaps.
  • While you may still meet team goals without delivering any feedback, helping everyone reach their potential should be your concern.

Receiver concerns

  • When top performers realize – on their own – that they made a mistake, they typically beat themselves up. Realize that part of their difficulty receiving your message has nothing to do with you. You’re just a witness to their disappointment and embarrassment.
  • Constructive feedback stings. Even people who ask for it may flinch or get defensive when you deliver it. Anticipate reactions, and prepare responses that keep the conversation focused on the end goal.
  • Pleasant meetings, where feedback is well received are enjoyable, but they are not your ultimate goal. Many top performers, who do not receive feedback well, eventually apply it and improve performance when they realize it has value and you delivered it with good intention.

While top performers may be different in their:

  • level of contribution
  • demands they put on themselves
  • expectations of perfection
  • scrutiny of their performance

They are not different about having blind spots.

Blind spots are things we do not see in ourselves, that are obvious to others. Others will benefit when you sensitively point out their blind spots and support their efforts to accept them and improve. People who value being the best, and pride themselves on top performance match the profile of those most inclined to address the blind spots revealed.

Helping top performers improve may be your easiest ‘sell’ and the greatest return on investment that you will make as a leader.

 I’ll leave you with this quote from Robert Greene in his book Mastery.

The problem with all students is that they inevitably stop somewhere. They hear an idea and they hold on to it until it becomes dead; they want to flatter themselves that they know the truth…. everyone must constantly be pushed to the abyss… you must continually start over and challenge yourself.

That’s my perspective, what’s yours? Leave us a comment or question below this post, and don’t miss the video on this topic on YouTube!

P.S. Next week: Are You Prepared For Success?

In 2 Weeks: Part Two – Helping Top Performers Improve.

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