Every business seems to have one or two employees who stand out. They’re the ones who show up early and stay late. They’re focused on doing the best job possible and are always looking for ways to improve. These are the employees that landscape business owners and managers gravitate toward, encouraging them, and focusing their attention on these superstars because they’re the ones helping the company succeed.
And why not? Everyone loves a superstar. They’re often the hero in situations where others would just shrug and look for the easiest way out. The superstars revel in being the go-to person when a job or task needs to get done. This, of course, makes you, the owner, grateful to have that kind of support and reliability when the going gets tough. It’s very easy to lean on this one person and focus your time and energy on nurturing them.
In the long term, however, this can be dangerous as your company evolves and grows. Sooner or later, this sterling employee will leave and you’re going to be stuck. This may sound cynical and negative, but it’s the truth. Superstars like what they like, the way they like it, and when things change too much, they’re inclined to leave and be a hero somewhere else.
If you make any organizational changes – and you will, if you’re becoming more successful and growing your company – you run the risk of making your workplace hero uncomfortable, which could be the impetus for their departure. Couple that with the potential for burn-out as you increasingly lean on your superstar, and the risk for their departure grows even greater.
The simple solution to this is to ensure that you’re spreading the love and attention to ALL your employees – superstars and second-stringers alike.
Here are five tips for developing and nurturing both your A-string and B-string players for a win-win outcome that benefits everyone:
1. Avoid looking for or developing superstars
How’s that for plain and simple? The truth is, developing a team around a single superstar is hard work and often not productive. Just don’t do it. These are people who generally know their skills and have the ego to go with it. It takes a keen and strong leader to manage an ego like that.
I’m not saying to avoid A-players, I am saying avoid creating or nurturing stand-alone individuals who may believe they are better than the people around them or who somehow carry too much of the production burden to ever be replaceable. Neither is going to be effective for you or your company in the long term.
2. Shift your focus to developing A-teams with strong leadership and strong support
Focus on these three distinct elements of your team:
- Identify the leader -- who’s in charge and minding the mission?
- Identify the structural players -- who are the go-to players that are getting the work done?
- Identify the supporters -- who are the employees who are more comfortable assisting in follow-up, follow-through and all the administrative efforts that make a team successful?
3. Understand and encourage B-team value
Your B-players may be the real backbone of your workforce. They like direction, a work plan, and predictable guidance. This is their happy place. Simply put, they like having a strong team and management around them to do that upper-tier work which they perceive as the “hard stuff".
This is the string that may be the source of your next A-player, provided you offer up consistent and predictable training. Who knows, you may have an emerging leader on your hands if you pay attention, communicate, and invest in their growth.
4. Identify the danger of “benchwarmers”
These are the individuals who are coasting in the shadows and not contributing to forward progress of your team or your company.
We all fall into the trap of bringing on people simply because we need a labor force, and in a pinch, this can be useful -- say during the insanity of the spring season -- but left unchecked, this can be a real buzz-kill for morale.
Be willing to poll team leaders regularly to determine how the group is doing. Then be ready to weed out players who are not improving with direction and contributing to the greater good. You are better off being shy one team member when the others are strong than carrying a member who is acting as a drag on the rest of the team and hurting overall performance.
5. Be aware of the changing emotional tides within your teams and employees
The psychology of an organization can be very fragile, especially when it comes to change. This change can come from people leaving, people being hired, a new project, a new internal initiative, the list goes on.
Here’s what happens: you have a guy who clearly has skills and can get things done. Then there is a change – your business grows, priorities change and you need this individual to rise to the occasion. So you set the stage for change in work flow and/or output goals, all the while thinking this person’s onboard with all that’s happening.
Then, the hammer drops. You get a resignation when you least expect it. What happened? Do you know? Here’s what I’ve learned…..
Your organizational chart is a living, breathing thing.
It’s easy to think of your organizational chart as something static. A list of names, titles, and job descriptions. I thought I could simply create an organizational chart, communicate it, hire to it, train to it, and be done. I was wrong.
As the CEO, your job is to tend that org chart and the people that live within it like a beloved garden. It will NOT be the same each year. It will go through periods of emergence and evolution and expansion in the same complex ways landscapes do. As some elements grow and thrive, other elements struggle and some even show signs of failure. Your job is to keep a watchful eye, check-in regularly, and have open lines of communication with all the players -- and be bold enough to make changes when and where changes need to be made. As soon as you sit back with the notion that your organizational work is done, that’s the moment you will be surprised by people.
It has taken me years to learn this and I am still learning every day. I do not have it all figured out. As a matter of fact, just this May, I lost a person who I thought was a key player and totally onboard with our 2017 goals. Why? Because he told me he was.
As I was working hard to fill positions, get spring underway, and build upon the goals that I had presented to the staff, he was feeling overwhelmed by those very changes. As we brought on some great new employees, he became worried that the culture was changing and that he was going to have to work too hard to keep up. As I made good on my promise to hold managers accountable for their schedules and their performance, he felt burdened and discomforted by those expectations.
The outcome? He resigned. In the middle of spring. In the middle of a 70-thousand dollar job!
My lesson? Looking back, I realize that I wasn’t paying enough attention to the signals he had been giving as we presented these changes to policy and company structure. Signals like being late regularly; like not showing up for team events, not following through with requests for communication, and not fixing things that we asked be fixed.
If you don’t pay close attention to your key people, things may be happening right in front of your eyes that are not good for your organization.
Here’s the silver lining though: when you get very clear on what you want and where you are going -- and when you articulate that to your staff and invite people to step up or step out -- people have an uncanny way of removing themselves when where you're headed no longer works for them. This is a blessing. You just want to be prepared for it rather than blindsided by it.Image Copyright: rawpixel / 123RF Stock Photo