We all know the adage, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” And, as a manager, you may feel you work hard to eliminate squeaks by coaching and mentoring your weaker performing team members. That would seem to make sense, knowing that high performing employees can be depended on to stay engaged and keep things moving along smoothly. Or can they?
According to an article from Gallup, you can’t tell how engaged a team member is by performance alone. Engagement raises performance, but your best people may be high performers even if they are miserable. Managers make a fatal mistake if they assume that their top performers can be safely left alone.
The opposite is actually true, as described by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman in their classic management guide, “First, Break All the Rules.” The authors write that when a manager spends time with an employee, “if you pay the most attention to your strugglers and ignore your stars, you can inadvertently alter the behaviors of your stars. Guided by your apparent indifference, your stars may start to do less of what made them stars in the first place and more of other kinds of behaviors that might net them some kind of reaction from you, good or bad.”
In summary, not engaging top talent is a serious risk. However, the good news is that it’s very fixable: when managers reinforce how high performing team members are critical to the organizations’ purpose, and give them the recognition and respect they crave, then both engagement and performance remain high.