As a people leader, you are judged by the performance of those you lead. Regardless of the business you’re in, your level of seniority or your role in your organization, your job as a leader IS people. The desired outcome of your leadership is a high-performing team. Once you’ve hired and engaged a bunch of smart, strategic, dynamic A-players, what else is there for you to do? How do you evolve them as a group over time?
Consistently high-performing teams do not happen simply by hiring the right folks: it’s the people formula you use next that will drive your outcomes. Consider some of the elements that make up your people formula.
- How much time do you spend focused on your people, thinking about what more they could do, or what they could do less of, and how they could just improve something even a little bit?
- How are you really developing them?
- When was the last time you pushed them for more?
- Do you give enough recognition?
- Is it all praise? Or is praise balanced with a little tough love when warranted?
My own signature formula has evolved over my leadership career. Quite honestly, it’s a constant work-in-progress. While I know that what I’m sharing here has served me well; I do realize that, although it might be considered a bit contrarian, it’s pretty simple and not too common.
Here’s the key.
If you want a winning team, then focus on raising the game of each of your A players.
Obvious, right? I hear leaders talk about this all the time. But the truth is, I rarely see this put into action. Your best or strongest performers can often do more—but in most cases you will need to invest in them in order to get them there.
Generally speaking, the strongest performers tend to get solid recognition and positive feedback. They are appreciated and valued and are essential to your team. Too often, however, they are missing out on constructive feedback that could potentially release even more of their potential. Cheating them out of such opportunities to refine their game can slow their progress. And if your A players are rising to the challenge, they create momentum that can raise the game of the B players too, and enhance the overall culture of performance.
I try to use the following principles when guiding my A-players, always in the spirit of fine-tuning their great leadership potential:
- Be tough, but always fair.
- Push them.
- Put them in real stretch opportunities, where they are on their toes but not in over their heads and where they have a real opportunity to grow.
- Tell them almost every time what they could have done better—because it can always be better.
- Create the ecosystem.
- It needs to be fertile: you must have genuine trust.
- Genuinely care for success and for them as a person. When that environment is there, they can accomplish anything.
- Celebrate the wins!
- Reward and recognize achievement.
- Sponsor them for their next assignment, maximize financial awards, and highlight the effort and execution.
I challenge you to think about your formula and the approach you take with your own team. Are you investing appropriately in your best and brightest? We know that our A players already set their own goals very high, and this creates a contagious momentum that can also impact B players as well. Providing opportunities for your top performers not only helps to release their potential but also motivates the entire team.
Now think about you and your potential. Is your bar being raised? Are you getting feedback you can grow from? Maybe it’s the right time to ask for the investment, to look for where you can make refinements and get ready for your next step.