Do You Tell High Performers They’re on Your Radar, or Do You Show Them?

© frank peters -
© frank peters -

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How organizations handle high potential employees has been on the top of my mind this week as I read a piece from Dr. John Sullivan on our sister site ERE about how you shouldn’t tell high potential employees that they are high potentials. It struck me because it is counter-intuitive to what we think we should be doing.

Communicate with high potentials via actions

It fits in perfectly because this week’s episode of TLNT Radio talks about how to handle high performing employees. I talked with Tim Sackett, Executive Vice President of HRU Technical Resources, a frequent contributor to TLNT, and a speaker at our February 2012 Transform conference, about how you communicate with high potential employees.

“Everybody says the right thing and we don’t want to treat anyone differently,” Sackett said. “Really?”

You have to be comfortable with treating employees differently. High performers get treated differently than lower performers. And that’s really the key to what Sackett thinks. It’s not about what you say but how you treat them. If you give them top of market salary, higher responsibilities, and more trust, you’ve made your point about where they are in your world.

But if you are going to communicate with them? “You need a plan,” he said.

On one point, Sackett says he doesn’t believe in the separation of performance and compensation. “I don’t believe that,” he said. “I want my top performers to make the most, period.”

Leadership lessons from Steve Jobs

We also got a moment to talk about some of the lessons he learned from Steve Jobs. You won’t be surprised that most of them are in the category of strength of leadership.

“If you have a leader at your company who is willing to stand up for what they’re doing,” stated Sackett, “you feel kinship with them.”

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And as we looked at Jobs’ body of work, you may have seen him as tyrannical or a jerk as an outsider, but you can guess that people really enjoyed working with him. We want leaders that will drink their own Kool-Aid. We want them to believe that what they’re doing as a whole is important and we want to be part of that.

If you have a leader that feels like that, Sackett said, “I’m willing to go down that path with him.”

We also touched on how Jobs’ used the crisis Apple was in, especially early in his second tenure with the company.

“I’ve had leaders who come out there and they have the ability to circle the wagons,” said Sackett. “They’re willing to say, ‘We’re going to make sure we get through this thing.'”

Listen to more lessons from Sackett as well as the rest of our fascinating discussion on how you handle high potential employees in the podcast below.

[buzzsprout episode=”35192″ player=”true”]


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