You all know them. High performing people that seem way ahead of the work, or way out of step. They work in a way that suits their own interests as much as the needs of the project or the organization. The way they get things done can tick off colleagues, clients and management alike.
But they deliver. Often on projects with wicked timelines, complex financing arrangements, or difficult social challenges. The energy, intellect and passion for the work at hand makes them invaluable to a project, particularly in the formative stages when definition is being built and complexity may be at its highest.
So, are there ways to support these individuals in ways that bring out their best and deliver on projects that work for the client, the company and the individual? Yes, and each can be applied in individual circumstance. Without getting into a whole discussion about management theory, aside from recognizing that each person is different and do require different ways to maximize their contribution, there are a couple of things that seem to work.
First, provide inspiration. Interest spans may be short if they are not inspired to work to a common end point. Active engagement and discussion to maintain an energy level about the work will help them commit real value for effort.
Second, provide focus. Keep focussed on the project at hand. High performers often will get miles ahead or mired in the weeds. They need to be drawn back into the discussion of whats needed ‘this week’, without losing their zeal for thinking far ahead. When caught in the weeds sometimes they can’t get out without help, that’s straightforward if a process to maintain focus is implemented.
Third, be patient. That call at 10:00 at night to talk about the project may not come at the best time. But a few minutes then will help them solve whatever it is that prompted the call. Be ready for more than a work relationship.
Fourth, be firm. That 10:00 call may be ok once in a while, but not on a regular basis. Be ready to give firm direction to them about whats acceptable. Ensure that when boundaries are set that they are respected and followed. This may require some direct discussions, but it will deliver a work/home balance for everyone as the project is delivered.
And finally, remember the other members of the team. Provide structure and support that allows these high performers to deliver value without disrupting the other important members of the project team. Establishing and keeping this harmony may be the largest challenge, but ultimately will demonstrate your leadership skills as the project is delivered.
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