Hiring is hard work. Finding the employee that is best skilled in the area of your needs, fits with the culture of the team, works like she owns the product, takes responsibility like it’s hers to win or lose, connects the dots and thinks ahead, is a good mentor and a listener, is a leader that can adapt to changes and cause changes when needed, has a vision and can articulate it, and is so much more, is really hard to find. Many of us would be lucky if we found half of those qualities in our employees. Yet, when we are lucky enough to find those gems of employees, many of us forget how to continue motivating them!
These are your A+ performers. They may be more capable than you (possibly with less experience, however), who are potentially going to make a fundamental difference to the products and the company as a whole. They are often self-motivated, need little attention and know exactly when to find you when they need input! Your competitors want them, badly. They are smart enough to see through your bullshit and read between the lines. They are a rare breed!
So, how do you recognize when their motivation drops and how do you keep it up? Ron Baker’s post on performance appraisals resonated with me quite a bit. The current appraisal system is just broken – it works for the average employee who does defined tasks, but not for your best performers. In a follow-up post, Ron makes some very good suggestions on alternative ways of evaluating performance. Here are some things to realize about motivating the best:
- It is often not about the money!
Money can get them in the door, but money won’t keep them. A seriously under competitive pay might be a problem, but a merely above average pay will not keep them. Understand this – if it was for the money, they would have left for your competitor by now!
- Recognize they may be smarter than you!
Don’t give them management bullshit. If they can think ahead in abstract terms, they can see through the bullshit even if they don’t tell you so. Tell them the truth and be genuine when you say you are trying. It will go a long way.
- Genuinely seek out their opinion and use it!
It does not belittle you to seek input from your employees and act on it. It tells them you value their input beyond their specific role.
- When you use their input, give them the recognition!
When you realize you are using their inputs with your own senior management, give them the recognition and visibility they deserve. None of the A+ players want to work for a hierarchical organization that masks visibility. You are going to be better off for it in the long run.
- Watch for signs of frustration
Watch for the indirect feedback, the body language, the interactions with the team to spot signs of frustration early. The best ones know grass is not greener on the other side. Addressing the frustrations early can help you keep them.
Many of the better companies recognize the pains in hiring and try to do a lot for their good employees. But rarely do we have managers who can truly keep the motivation of the employees they cannot afford to lose! As a result, we often see different effects – some leave, some stay with frustration and become A- or B players. Either way, it is a loss!
It truly makes you a great leader when you recognize that you need to sometimes give up your pride to keep the good ones motivated. But, that’s what makes exceptional leaders so exceptional – they are not afraid of recognizing and hiring talent that is better then them and finding innovative ways of keeping them!