Managing High Performers

 

Project Managers often fell in trap staffing all high performers in their team. And later regret with the challenges they face. Today, lets discuss the three major challenges as below:

Generate Challenging Work:

Let’s face it. Each High Performer is looking for a challenging work where (s)he can show case his/her alma matter and progress in career. However, the fact of the matter is that projects generally do not have that much amount of challenging work and few of them will end up doing repeated work and in turn become disappointed.

Therefore, Project Manager has to play a very important role at the start of project to understand the expertise and interest of his team of high performers. Even if all are High Performers, it is quite unlikely that they have similar interest. Per author’s experience, though these high performers would like to excel in each of area but they have inclination towards one particular work. Like, there are few, who would like to focus on Quality, few would like to focus on Process while some others would be happy doing project reporting. Therefore, its Project Manager ability to identify as many area in his project and assign these areas to each of high performer in addition to their regular deliverables.

These additional assignments will help Project Manager and Project in two ways – 1. High Performers will be occupied and will be learning something new, and developing new skill. 2. Quality of Project processes, and deliverables will of high quality as each one is competing in other area.

List of such area are but not limited to – a. Process b. Quality c. Reporting d. People Person d. PMO e. Review Owner f. Configuration Owner g. Change Management Owner h. Training etc.

Managing Expectations:

The bigger challenge is that every high performer has high expectations and aspirations to the Project Manager in terms of reward and recognition. This issue further complicated with Bell Curve and Limited Budget of organization which is a

more than a reality.

Therefore, Project Manager needs to be very careful and has to plan since the start of project for managing expectation. To be honest, there is no methodology to overcome this issues but below may help to a great extent:

  1. Discuss and Educate the Team well in advance about appraisal system, bell curve and budget.
  2. Plan for various rewards in between, do not push all the rewards for yearend or in terms of promotions or salary hike.
  3. Discuss all the opportunities in open with team. Take a decision, and explain that decision with proper reasoning. For example, if there are limited travel opportunities, why you select someone not the other one.
  4. Set the objectives, review regularly, allow team mates to rate themselves and do not break the communication channels with team.

Bottom line, as long as Project Manager is able to communicate his decision with conviction and without fear to team, team will understand the decision. Per author’s experience, many of the high performers became frustrated as they were never told – What/Why/How? And being High Performers, they have zeal/eagerness to understand the decision.

Caution: There is no guarantee that each one in team will understand and satisfied with decision, but this will definitely give rational reasoning and few of them can be win over.

Conflict Management:

The other major challenge with High Performers is their EGO and Self Belief. Per author’s experience both EGO and Self Belief are positive attribute in High Performers but Project Manager must able to manage these:

 

  1. Explain the difference between assertiveness vs. aggressiveness. Encourage team to be assertive and not to aggressive.
  2. Do not let die their assertiveness.
  3. Give ample opportunity to High Performers to express their view point. Moderate such sessions with convictions and ground rules.
  4. Let the group agree and sign off the approach. Give the responsibility to minute such approach to the most un convinced member.
  5. Once agree, do not review the decision until next such session. Do not discuss these decisions at Coffee Breaks.
  6. Be careful, not to labelled as biased towards few team members.
  7. Do not shy away to solve the conflicts, but confront and solve.

Per author experience, by applying above techniques, few High Performers become silent, and project manager needs to be careful and ensure no one feel isolated in team. An isolated and non-motivated High Performer is worse than an average or below performer.

At conclusion, Project Manager needs to be careful while creating their team to ensure to have proper mix. Many times, it would be difficult to manage a team of High Performers particularly when the project is not that complicated.

 

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I am cool, calm, collected, and reasonable Virgo. I currently reside in Garden City Bangalore. I am an Engineering Graduate and work as Management Consultant.

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