- 7 September 2023
- Posted by: M-author
- Category: Leadership
When leadership opportunities arise, it provides career progression for your high-performing employees. However, there are questions about whether excellence in the role has any correlation with leadership skills. In this article, we explore whether experience in the job gives employees a headstart in managing others.
Retaining High Performing Employees
Your motivated and productive team members can be an incredible asset to a business. Harness their talents to elevate operations, aid efficiency and inspire a positive workplace culture! However, keeping hold of your high-performing employees can be difficult. They’re likely on the lookout for the next opportunity, so if they don’t feel challenged and rewarded in your company, expect them to move on.
Aware of this need to retain talent, many managers offer high-performing employees career progression routes. It makes sense; they have proven to be reliable, capable and self-directed. They are good in their role and are having a positive impact on others, so let’s have more of that!
As a result, many employees are promoted into senior roles because they are good at their job, rather than because they have strong leadership skills.
What Can We Learn About Leadership From Football?
Last month, we witnessed some excellent play from the Lionesses, who made it to the final of the Women’s World Cup. They are a strong team, with skilled players, who showed they could pull out all the stops to perform under pressure. Does this mean that they would excel as football managers?
A recent study* explored whether there was any correlation between player performance and coaching performance in the German Football League. Drawing on several theories and using different test criteria, the study found no significant link between performance and experience in played matches and the ability to effectively coach a team.
The study reports that there is no reason to expect a head start in leadership capabilities from individuals who were high-performing employees. So, why is this?
Success and Leadership
Knowledge of the role and how to do it well can be an asset for a leader, however, it can also be an issue.
Firstly, if an employee has been highly successful, they may believe that you have all the answers and know the best way to go about it. This can be a barrier to being open to alternative approaches or fresh ideas.
Secondly, if the employee has been highly successful, they may have difficulties in trusting others to do it as well. This can prevent them from delegating tasks. Equally, they can be inclined to micro-manage the team to keep tabs that it’s all going to plan.
Thirdly, success is great, but failure is also part of the learning process. As such, good leaders nurture a psychologically safe environment where the team can ask for help, admit mistakes or try something that may not work. Is a high performer able to let go and accept that not every action leads to top results? Are they critical of those who don’t deliver to their high standards?
I am not saying that high-performing employees can’t make great leaders. The message I want to get across is not to assume that one thing predetermines the other.
My advice is to use aptitude and ability assessment tools as part of the recruitment process, as these provide a non-biased evaluation of skills and potential. Then, provide anyone taking on a leadership role with training and development to equip them for the complexities of the role.
Alternative Retention Methods
If leadership isn’t the right option for your high-performing employees, what other options are there?
The first recommendation is to maintain communication and build an understanding of their ambitions. What do they want to achieve and what is driving them? Then, make the most of their potential in their current role by keeping them challenged with projects that stretch and develop them in ways that tie in with their goals. In addition, give them greater autonomy.
My next point is not to take them for granted. If someone is consistently delivering, it is easy to just let them get on with it, but this is a mistake. They are unlikely to stick around if they don’t feel their efforts and achievements are noticed. Recognise when they exceed expectations and reward their reliability to maintain their motivation.
Finally, high performers are prone to taking on more than they have the capacity for. As a result, they can struggle with workload management and the associated risks of overload and burnout. Be aware of this risk. Take steps to ensure that an individual’s drive and determination are supported, rather than exploited.
In summary, promoting your top employees to leadership roles may not be the best option. Their performance in one role is no guarantee that they will excel in another. Using assessment tools can remove this bias and help you select the right candidate for the job and if it isn’t your high-performing employees, there are other ways to retain their talents.