Performance Management

How to coach a top performer

Top performing employees are often the most overlooked. This blog provides tips for managers to coach high performers successfully & unlock their full potential.

It’s easy to neglect high performing employees. In so many organisations, the focus for managers is on improving performance: if you’re already performing excellently, what more can a manager do? As a result, the employees that are seemingly at the top of their game can be unfairly left to their own devices – and it is costing businesses their best talent.

To get the best out of top performing employees, every manager needs to become a coach, not a micromanager. They need to learn how to listen to the employee’s needs, measure their wellbeing and engagement, identify their key drivers and motivators, and work with the employee to enact positive change.

It’s a key difference between traditional performance management and people-centric performance. While the former is weighted towards output, the latter is about appreciating the individual and unlocking their full potential, for better results across the business. This approach holds the answer to not only making sure your top performers are functioning at their best, but that they are happy, fulfilled and engaged with the business.

Here are some of OpenBlend's top tips to coach high performing employees:

Identify their drivers and motivators

Why is this employee such a high performer? What is it that drives them to achieve? Identifying what motivates high performers is vital to maintaining their high performance – and could unlock even greater potential.

It’s important to remember that every individual is growing and changing all the time. Any employee’s key drivers are subject to change and fluctuation, but this is especially true of top performers. Things that may not have originally been a key motivator to them – such as progression at work, feeling challenged in their role, recognition – may gradually become more important over time, particularly if they start to feel taken for granted, overworked, or unchallenged.

Coaching tip: Encourage employees to discuss what drives them in your regular one-on-ones to make sure that you maintain sight of high performing employees’ changing goals and motivators. Our motivators feature is a great way to help high performers identify their workplace drivers and motivators and measure their current and target scores regularly. You can read more about the Blend tool and the benefits it brings to the workforce in our guide to employee motivation..

Inspire and evolve

Lack of fulfillment can become an issue for high performers, even when they are seemingly happy and productive. If an employee is constantly outperforming in their role, do they remain fulfilled – and is that an important motivator for them? Helping employees to address whether boredom is creeping into their role, and how that will impact their wellbeing and performance, is an important part of coaching a top performer. However, don’t make assumptions: some top performers are happy where they are, and that happiness and security is a key motivator for them.

Coaching tip: Encourage the employee to be open about their sense of fulfilment at work, and unlock avenues that can spark inspiration and progress their role if necessary. 1:1s are a good way to link top performers with others in the business who can provide inspiration and career motivation.

Find out what they’re really thinking

When an employee’s performance declines, it’s usually a red flag that something is wrong, and needs to be fixed. Yet there are some employees that can maintain high levels of output, regardless of what they are thinking or feeling. That’s just how they operate.

And it’s dangerous. Rather than a dip in productivity alerting managers to a decline in wellbeing, and being able to do something about it, they are often oblivious until it becomes a much bigger problem, such as notice of resignation, or a sudden, dramatic drop in performance caused by burnout.

Coaching tip: Make sure that top performers are prompted to answer questions in their 1:1 honestly, and don’t jump to conclusions based on their productivity. The OpenBlend platform gives managers coaching prompts that help them to ask the right questions, at the right time, to get an honest response.

Watch for burnout

This is one of the biggest risks for top-performing employees. When an employee has a track record of excellent performance, high output and reliability, it’s easy for managers and colleagues to rely on these team members, causing expectations – and pressure – to mount. Burnout can damage employee confidence quickly, often without an obvious warning. The only surefire way to avoid it is by maintaining regular 1:1s that enable your top employees to share their concerns and indicate their wellbeing scores, openly.

Coaching tip: Let the employee set their own 1:1 agenda, and encourage them to monitor and review wellbeing and ensure that they have the opportunity to raise their own Talking Points. Heaping praise and positivity on a high performer that is close to burnout, without listening to their concerns and issues, will only exacerbate the issue.

To maintain high performance in your organisation, every manager needs to become a coach. OpenBlend provides a performance management platform that supports managers with coaching frameworks and prompts they need to unlock every employee’s potential. Book a demo to see how OpenBlend can help your managers become coaches and boost your business’ performance.

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