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Coaching the All-Stars Pays Bigger Dividends Than Most Other Training and Development

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Coaching all-star performers pays higher dividends than virtually all remedial training, notes Alan Weiss, Ph.D. who is CEO of the Society for the Advancement of Consulting® (SAC). In a poll of its international membership and their clients, "We found that too many organizations ignore their best performers—and best source of return on investment—when developing people," he says.

Gayle Lantz, president of WorkMatters, Inc., a consulting firm based in Birmingham, Alabama, notes that smart companies integrate coaching for top performers as part of their retention strategy. Coaching outstanding performers involves helping them find new challenges and growth opportunity. These motivated professionals appreciate a collaborator and sounding board to help them achieve even higher levels of success. As a result, they're more likely to stay with their employer.

"Raising the bar is critical when coaching All Stars," says Ann Latham, president of Uncommon Clarity, Inc. "Triggering new paradigms, perspectives and possibilities allows high performing employees to apply their considerable strengths to new challenges." Latham, an organizational performance expert from Massachusetts, goes on to explain that, ironically, one of the best opportunities for All-Star growth comes from exploring the downside of their strengths. "Do there quick thinking and persuasive powers discourage co-workers from speaking up and engaging in vital debate? Does an incredible track record of success prevent them from seeing the potential of new approaches? Does stellar execution lock them into responsibilities that are actually holding them back? Does conspicuous self-confidence deprive them of the feedback we all need to learn? Exploring questions like these with top performers can help them become even more effective."

Carl Robinson, Ph.D., Managing Principal of Advanced Leadership Consulting in Seattle, Washington. He specializes in developing high performing executives and executive teams in fast growth organizations.

"All Stars generally are the most coachable of executive coaching clients because they have a mindset for self-development. In fact, you get more 'bang for your buck' because you can help them leapfrog to a higher level rather than dragging a derailed executive back to an average level. For example, you rarely have to help All-Stars correct major interpersonal problems. Instead, they must focus on what they need to learn to get to the next level, which generally has to do with honing their influence skills (working through others) and thinking and acting more strategically. They need to think more about the needs of the enterprise rather than just their particular domain. All-Stars who understand the big picture and act accordingly have the best shot at becoming leaders of an organization."

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist and leadership coach and president of Working Resources, a strategic talent management firm in San Francisco, CA. He specializes in executive coaching for developing emotionally intelligent leader and lawyers. He offers a couple of insights:

"In my leadership development experience over the past twenty years, I believe the best way to coach and develop star performers is to help them create work experiences that stretch their capabilities beyond their wildest imagination.

"Depending on the workplace, sometimes a superstar can create lofty challenges and with free rein go for the stars. In other work environments exceptional people might have to influence organizational leaders to co-create new work assignments where the learning curve is steep and the rewards enormous.

"Star performers are attracted like magnets to possibility and what can be. Sometimes they just need a coach as a thought partner, and relevant new experiences and challenging assignments to help them unleash their greatness and achieve a desired future."

SAC member Bill Corbett is president of Corbett Business Consulting in Loveland, Colorado. He commented: "The four most effective practices for coaching a high achiever are: 1) Control the relationship by using powerful language; 2) Build trust by being authentic; 3) Determine where the high achiever's redline or current capacity is by delegating more and more important work, until he or she raises the white flag; 4) Coach to new heights by helping acquire the skills needed."

"The final consideration," observes Weiss, "is that investing in top performers increases retention and decreases 'jumping ship' because of the perception that their work is not appreciated. This is independent of whatever their financial rewards are."

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