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Why top performers love to be challenged

After years working with great teams and grooming talents in a fortune 50 company I became intrigued by what drives the motivation of my top people and how to retain them.  The following note, which I received from a shining star, brings it all together.

“Before I shut down for the holidays I want to send a note to thank you for a great 2015.  I have felt more challenged & and rewarded this past year than I have in a long time and I attribute that to your leadership.  I know we are doing great things for HP and I continue to be energized by my work and my team, so thank you!”

As a leader this is the most precious gift your team can give you because it makes you reflect about the power of challenging them to set the bar higher and taking their performance to the next level. 

Here`s what challenge means in our world.

Expose your people to assignments they will have no choice other than lead others

Be thoughtful your own most important goal must be guarded by your top performers; assign it to those special individuals right away. In the military world this is why the Navy has its “Seals” and the Army its “Rangers” special forces. So do you in the corporate environment. Most importantly be direct by letting them know where they stand in the rankings and what makes them part of your elite team. They are your face, your highest chance of success. Simply put if they know they are responsible for their leaders` own life at work they will lead on your behalf, and crave it daily. Throughout my journey I found it easy to implement when someone knew he or she was my right hand person. I just let they become me, do what I had to do and truly lead for me. The little-known secret is that the best ones will not ask for permission to sit on your chair and you must incentivize it.

Show them the purpose

Instant gratification moves average employees but the ones who can look at the big picture and connect their mission to the organization`s vision will be more adaptive, resilient and burn the ships as needed. When the purpose is made clear, as a leader you can get the job of 50 average people done by a few extraordinary talented members of the team. This is also where your values as leader play a key inspirational role in the development of your top employees. As humans we are in a constant search for role models in life and if you have not been one inside of your own organization, people will simply go find another one, and without loyalty you do not get optimum performance. A clear purpose will enable greater results, faster and the daily achievements of your team will compound into something amazing for their careers in the future.

Hard charge the environment with passion

Super energetic leaders communicate from the bottom of their heart and they are not afraid of that. The explosion of intensity enables the chemistry a team needs to do more and believe in what they do. Most critically why they should do it. It will also connect people more deeply with your aspirations and objectives. Your passion at work has to be transformed into what I call magnetic leadership, displayed attributes and actions that transform employees into allies.

Do not tolerate B players

If you are coaching a team defending an NBA championship would you hire an average player or even tolerate low performance from one of your existing crew members? Not if you are serious about staying at the top, regardless of the company, non-profit or other organization that you lead. People suffer from good and bad influences. If you are exposing your top stars to class B performance, they will not play effectively, they will become impatient, and may leave at any time. They reached the top by working more, playing among the best and in an environment in which challenge is constant. Your job as a leader is simple: hire A+ players, challenge your top notch people by sharing accountability of finding more top talent and protect them from mediocrity.

Bringing it all together

Every assignment you give to your people has the opportunity to challenge them and, a chance to reward and retain your best talent. Simple things that compound overtime like asking them to step up and lead on your behalf with passion and energy will inspire them. It is also critical to ensure they are playing for the best team in the league, not the one winning daily, but the one whose members play to perfect their game and exhaustively try to join the hall of fame, a place where only A+ performers get access to.

Have you seen the same principles in business? Do you agree with it? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, as this can help me perfect my own game and keep on growing as a leader.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vinicius David is an executive in tech, a passionate for talent development and fanatic to drive innovation.

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Vinicius David
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