The infamous “rising star” – what every manager wants to have on their dream team. I’m referring to the person that is kicking butt in every aspect of their job and asking for more to kick. This is the person that you can trust with the highest profile of projects and not worry. I like to say you can “fire and forget” – meaning you can fire off a request and then forget about it since you know full well that this person will get it done for you. These kinds of folks help you sleep at night.
While it may be tempting to just keep pointing all sorts of high-level stuff at this person so you don’t have to worry much, without the appropriate level of “care and feeding”, these rising stars will rise their way right out of your organization. Nobody wins if that happens.
Since hiring nowadays is pretty challenging, employee retention is even more important. The LAST thing you want to do is lose your “stars”, so I thought I’d share some thoughts on how I think you can minimize the chances of that happening. In no particular order, here are some points to consider:
Freedom – Stars need freedom, which can come in many forms. I don’t mean you can/should just tell them to do whatever they want as that’s not very helpful to anyone. But when you do assign them a task to complete, you should give them the freedom to get it done in the best way they know how. It may be unorthodox or different than others, but that’s not for you to judge. Your job is to judge the results of their work, regardless of how they got there.
Flexibility – Stars enjoy flexibility in many forms. I think the most important one is location. Let them work from wherever they’d like – home, local coffee shop, office, etc. In addition, you should allow them to set their schedule and be understanding of personal commitments (doctors, spouse sick, etc) that may interfere. Referencing my last bullet point – you judge the results, not the method of getting there.
How to Reward – As with all employees, stars like to be rewarded. Compensation drives behavior right? So make sure they are well compensated, with appropriate upside potential. Stars will “get” the upside side of things. Just don’t short them on their base salary. That as a baseline, I believe that they also appreciate other forms of reward. Internal and/or External recognition is a key form of “reward” for these folks. They bust their butts and should be recognized for it. Talk about them in newsletters, public forums, customer meetings, etc. They know they are stars and should also know that you know and acknowledge that.
Communicate – Quite simply, communicate with them – a lot. I don’t mean call them every day and micromanage them – that would be bad. But I’d plan to check in with them, even just via email, at least on a weekly basis. Find out where their head is at, what are their current priorities, and fill them in with what’s going on outside of “their world”. I think that making sure they are updated on company “big picture” items will go a long way in the communication department.
Engagement – As a follow on to communication, engagement is key as well. Stars should feel not just talked to about the big picture stuff, but they should feel like they are part of setting that direction. Odds are that you are basing at least some aspect of your corporate direction on your stars – it seems fair then that they should have some input there. And not just token “after the fact” input – but real engagement in the process of setting direction. That’s the only way that you are going to get true long-term “buy-in” to where things are headed, of which they are a key part.
Care – This might seem obvious, but many managers/leaders that I have worked with miss the boat big time here. You should care, truly care, about your stars – their personal situations, their challenges, their priorities, and their career goals. Have candid and honest discussions with them about those things and make sure that they know you care. If you don’t, or are faking it, they’ll pick up on that pretty quickly. They are stars after all – they aren’t dummies.
Tools for Success – Give them the tools that they need to get their job done. Within reason, of course, don’t skimp on providing them what they need to get work done. These folks tend to ask for more than your average employee, but that’s not a bad thing because these folks are also the ones that are going to use whatever you give them.
Training – While this is important for all employees, it’s really key for your stars. They tend to crave training as they are generally the type that loves to learn new concepts, technologies, etc. Do your best to provide the training they are asking for – even if it means having to be creative in your customer commitments. Your challenge here is going to be making sure that their training requests are in line with the corporate direction. As long as the two are aligned, your stars should be well trained.
Get Out of the Way – This one is easy, and tied to the other ones. As a leader/manager of a star, just get out of their way. Give them some direction, support, the tools they need, and the flexibility to do it – then let the magic happen. And it will happen.
That may sound like a lot of work for a manager/leader to take on, but keep in mind that these are your stars. You’ve heard of the 80/20 rule I’m sure. That can easily apply here. 80% of your time can and likely should go towards the 20% of your staff you consider stars. It’s a LOT of work on your part – with a significant amount of time and dollar investment. But if nurtured properly, the relationship can be great for all involved.
So don’t screw it up!! Because if you do, your star won’t be around long and you can’t afford to try to find another one.