3 Tips For Managing the “Don’t worry… I got this” High Performing Team Member

number one man


You may not be able to tell now, but in my high school years (a few pounds and pants sizes ago) I belonged to a city champion swim team. We were very successful in part due to some great swimmers who had raw god- gifted talent. One guy was so good that he would rarely come to practice and still win his events easily. Because he was so good, in hindsight I believe that the coaches may have allowed him to miss practice for fear that he might quit the team if they addressed his frequent absences. We would sometimes confront him about it and he would say “Don’t worry…I got this.”

When we think about how to make teams work effectively it is easy to recognize and address the slacker or social loafer. But what about the nonconforming high performer? The star team member who is allowed to break the rules. They are a great asset. However, these individuals may also demoralize the team, and over time cause others to be less motivated as team members begin to sense inequity regarding how they are managed. The following three tips may help managers keep nonconforming high performers as an asset.

#1- Develop clear team norms and expectations. When teams are formed, members should discuss what guidelines for functioning they will follow including its consequences. Team members are less likely to break the rules when they played a role in creating them. Also, when nonconforming high performers understand upfront how they are expected to behave they may less likely break the rules. Also, consider using virtual teams, where members meet electronically, or ad hoc teams as members may experience less problems because they meet face-to-face less often. Additionally, the important norms followed by team members are based more on structure than interpersonal needs.

#2- Revise your rewards and incentives. Team rewards are very important because they build cohesion, synergy, and drive members towards the goals of the company. Although rewarding individuals is usually reserved for independent work, these types of rewards may be helpful for teams with nonconforming high performers when attached to peer evaluations measuring how well each member gets along with each other. How well someone follows the rules can be used as one of the factors to be evaluated to determine who is the MVP. This individual reward should evaluate more than just performance.

#3- Train them to be leaders. Some nonconforming high performers may follow the rules if placed in a leadership situation. They know they are great and may feel like they deserve to be treated as such. In this position they may also develop a better appreciation for the team norms and are more willing to follow them when they know there are serving as models for others. Keep in mind this can be risky and backfire, but placing nonconforming high performers in a leadership role is a way to take advantage of their talent rather than seeing it go to waste.

“Never let your ego outstrip your talent.” — Anonymous

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