Beware of Your Super-Performers!

Since I started out my career in 1991 I have had the opportunity to work closely with a large number of managers, directors and senior executives across various continents.

While most of them were quite honest, empathic and professional, I also had to work with a number of extremely egotistical executives. It is not a pleasant experience, but I learned a lot from all of them.

Unfortunately, we have all found ourselves under the tyranny of some despotic managers at some point in our careers.

Almost 50% of employees worldwide complain about poor management practices at their workplaces.

Therefore, the problems caused by bad managers are not new and have been occurring for a long time, but most companies show an incomprehensible level of tolerance with these guys.

The reasons why many companies are not able to solve this problem are:

  • Weak leadership
  • Poor corporate culture
  • Inadequate or inconsistent hiring and promotion policies

As a result, many organizations end up promoting “Super performers” to executive positions.

What is a “Super-performer”?

A “Super-performer” is an individual who has delivered excellent results in roles where teamwork is not top priority, so they lack the soft skills required to become an admired leader.

A “Super-performer” is a super-efficient employee, hyper-effective and generally hyper-active too, who tends to make other team members seem lazy and extremely inefficient.

“Super-performers” are highly valued by executives, due to their excellent individual performance and ability to exceed expectations year on year.

So what’s the problem with “Super-performers”?

As the Peter´s Principle goes:

“An employee tends to be promoted until s/he reaches her/his highest level of incompetence”

But how can a “Super-performer” become an incompetent leader?

There are two key reasons:

# 1 egocentrism

Most of the “Super-performers” believe that their extraordinary career success is the result of their superior intelligence, self-sufficiency, and their ability to work independently, with little or no help from other colleagues.

For these guys delegation means risk. So they will try to retain their knowledge and control people and situations around them to protect their jobs. They are, despite their success, quite fearful and insecure in most cases. These guys do not rely on other´s opinions and tend to consider other members of the team weaker or inferior.

# 2 Greed

In the corporate world, greed can be translated as an excessive and extraordinarily intense desire for status and power.

You will recognize “Super-performers” because they are strongly attracted to titles and authority; in fact, this insatiable greed is what drives them and allows them to work harder than anyone else in the team, continuously exceeding the expectations of their superiors.

These guys will do whatever it takes to achieve their objectives; that´s why they are highly regarded by senior executives and, too often, are seen as their ideal successors.

…and this is where the real problem resides!

The main issues with big egos holding executive positions are:

  • They do not like sharing success with others.
  • They do not listen.
  • They see things in terms of black or white.
  • No one is good enough for them.

“A great leader is one who is willing to develop his disciples and followers to the extent that it exceeds knowledge and skills.” – Fred A. Manske, Jr.

The problem with the extremely greedy people holding positions of power and authority is that they ALWAYS develop intolerable behaviors that end up affecting the working environment, and the performance or the entire organization as a result.

On top of that, they have an inborn ability to flush the real and most valuable talent of the company down the toilet at the speed of light, as a result of their attitude and their unacceptable levels of:

  • Insolence
  • Arrogance
  • Rudeness
  • Abuse of authority

Conclusion:

Promoting a “Super-performer” to a leadership role is not a good idea.

If you hold an executive position and are considering the possibility to promote a “Super- performer” to a leadership role, think twice and make sure that:

  • Her/his team´s feedback is captured and shared with her/him on a regular basis, as well as incorporated to his performance reviews.
  • Your “Super-performer” goals and incentives are closely connected with her/his team´s feedback, motivation and commitment, beyond the team´s financial results.

Remember, leading people is an extremely difficult task which requires a completely different skill-set comparing to the skills required to being a good task executor.

Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position. —Brian Tracy

What if you promote a “Super-performer” without taking your advice on board?

The main risk you face is that your decision will most likely jeopardize the performance of the team, or even, and depending on the level of authority and responsibility assigned to her/him, you may put the entire organization in danger.

I recently saw how a very egotistical and arrogant “Super-performer”, who had delivered strong results in previous positions as an executor, but actually was the ideal personification of a “control freak”, what we could call the “anti-leader”, was promoted to an executive position within a mid size multinational.

Well, the guy managed to drive away the most talented people in the organization, in less than 1 year!!! 90% of the senior management team left, and today the organization is almost dismantled.

Funnily enough, once he had “destroyed” the entire organization, he decided that it was time to move somewhere else… how about that?

What if I cannot retain the “Super performer” unless I promote her/him to a leadership role?

My best advice in that case is that you let the “Super performers” go and focus on protecting the talent in your organization. Act wisely and do not jeopardize the unity of your organization to satisfy the ego of any “Super performers”, or you will surely regret it.

The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly. — Jim Rohn”

I hope you enjoyed the reading. If so, I would love it if you click on “Like” and share it with others who may find it interesting or helpful too.

Best regards,

Jordi Alemany

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About Jordi Alemany

I am a multi-cultural and multi-lingual (English, Spanish, Catalan and Italian) executive coach and management consultant, specializing in Humanistic Leadership, Organizational Strategy, and Portfolio Management disciplines. I am an energetic, creative and resourceful, with an innate passion for helping others reach their full potential.
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