7 Things Your High-Performing Employees Long To Hear You Say

These are all real statements I’ve heard in the last few weeks:

“Oh we don’t worry about observing our high-performing call center reps. We just focus on the ones who are struggling.”

“John doesn’t really need a training and development plan like everyone else, he’s got his job nailed.”

“Well, he’s a bit a rough around the edges, but we don’t say anything. He’s so good at his job, we’re afraid to tick him off.”

“Oh Sally’s good. She loves what she does. Thank God for her. She just likes to be left alone to do her thing.”

I get it. Your high-performing employees never seem like the MIT. (Most Important Thing). They’ve got it. You can count on them. They don’t appear to want your help. They don’t complain. You’ve got other fish to fry.

But the truth is, when I meet with such high-performers and ask what they need, here’s what they tell me they long for from their boss.

What Your High Performing Employees Long to Hear You Say

  1. Wow! Thank you.
    “Wow” is a highly under-used word in corporate America. It’s okay to be impressed. No one’s going to slack off because you were wowed.  A big “Wow” followed by a genuine and heartfelt “Thank You” from someone a high-performer respects will trump almost any token of appreciation you can offer.
  2. I know what you’re doing isn’t easy. I’d love to hear more.
    No matter how easy they make it look, it’s not. Your high-performing employees are dealing with all kinds of crap that they’re not bothering you with (and may even think you don’t understand). They would love to tell you some stories. And the stories are worth hearing. Pull up a chair and listen.
  3. Can you show me how you did that?
    Think about the last time you figured something out that you were wildly proud of. What did you long for most? For me, I know it’s someone to share it with. Ask for details and if you’re amazed, show that. Side benefit: this is a remarkable way to uncover best practices. Some of the biggest turnarounds I’ve been a part of began by asking a few high-performers what they were up to.
  4. What could we be doing to better serve our customers?
    They know. If you truly care about the customer experience ask this question, listen and do what you can to take action on the response. 
  5. What’s getting in your way?
    Just because they’re low maintenance, doesn’t mean they don’t have a list. Every time I’ve asked this question I’ve been surprised about some of the easy asks. No, you can’t fix everything. But if you can fix a few small things getting in the way of your highest performers, can you imagine the ROI?
  6. What do you want to do next?
    High-performers want to know you care about them as much (or more than) the work. Make that clear.
  7. I want to help you do even better.
    Challenge them. Help them grow. Even when they think they’re done… ask deeper questions. True high-performers almost always want to achieve more. Inspire them to get past the tired.

Not every high-performer is looking to be promoted. And that’s fine. You need rock stars in every role. But every high-performer is human and longs for appreciation, connection, and wants to be heard. It’s so easy to direct our attention to the folks who need our help the most. Be sure to pay attention to your top 20% as well.