MANAGING A TOP PERFORMER WHO IS NOT A TEAM PLAYER
In my last article, I wrote about the leader (iLeader) that ensures that the spotlights stay focused on him/her while lights around others dim. This article is about someone within the team being led. You know that one guy who has demonstrably performed better than his/her peers, meeting all the targets, crushing all the goals. Yes, that is who we are focusing on in this article.
It is open secret that the greatest ideas have come from collaborations, and the top organisations in the world have teams that work together to keep them there. So, it is undeniable that teamwork does make the dream work. And that is why having a highly skilled and confident employee is great — unless when that individual alienates their colleagues.
Like the iLeader, the lone top performer exhibits some similar traits such as speaking over others, monopolizing conversations, and speaking in a condescending tone should someone be bold enough to disagree with them. What are the steps a manager can take to improve the interpersonal skills of that lone top performer?
ASK REAL QUESTIONS
The lone top performer is typically good with words and they rarely welcome feedback. So, you want to approach them with tact while eliminating your biases. To do this, ask yourself as the manager if your bias is clouding your assumptions. Are you negatively predisposed to confident people? Is their confidence backed by competence? Once you have gotten these questions out of the way, you want to try asking external questions like if the organisational culture is cutthroat making them respond by openly proving their worth albeit in a brash manner. Lastly, is their behaviour disrupting team cohesion, or it is just pushing your buttons? Separate emotional sentiments from logical reasoning.
PROVIDE TOUCH FEEDBACK
Now you have enough ammunition to address a lone top performer. If not, you can end up making the situation much worse. They are highly intelligent and can produce a thousand decent reasons why they are not the problem. You need to be tactful, honest, and gracious in delivering your feedback. Focus on the outcome favourable to all parties and how the star performer’s style can even be a clog in the wheel of their progress. As a manager, you can share a few examples from experience. It will come in handy.
HELP THEM IN EMBRACING EMPATHY
Empathy again you say? Yes, please, empathy. Make them realise that their style may have worked elsewhere or in the past but is not sustainable. Considering other people’s viewpoints and seeing things from their perspectives should not be seen as a form of weakness or a waste of time, but an opportunity to broaden one’s perspective. It can even add flavour to the overall project. Lone star performers are more likely to discover a common ground with an empathetic approach than a divisive, self aggrandizing approach that alienates colleagues at work.
It is important for a manager to establish rules at the team and organizational levels to foster an inclusive culture in which everyone feels empowered to speak up or defend others when a lone star performer tries to take center stage or stifle other voices. Creating psychological safety, collaborative, and inclusive culture for everyone will certainly set the tone for interpersonal relationships at work, improve communication for the general good, and help the star performer get better at delivering results without alienating colleagues in the process.