Discover more from Compressed
Top talent is the hardest group to manage
As a leader, one of the best things you can do for your own career development is to hire absolutely top tier talent. This may sound stupidly obvious. If you have a great team, then they solve all the hard problems and your life is easy, right?
No. And that’s the point.
If you’ve actually hired top tier talent, you will generally find that while they will absolutely solve all the hard problems, they will expect significantly more out of you than anyone else. That is, they will exert upward pressure.
This is because top tier talent has all the qualities you’d ever want. They are capable, caring, ambitious, fast, diligent, responsible, and extremely fast learners. If you manage a team of high performers, your job starts easier, but then becomes significantly harder because top talent doesn’t rest. You cannot coast. If you do, that talent will simply go elsewhere. You need to evolve at the same speed they are or they’ll leave you behind.
This generally bucks conventional wisdom that I’ve seen floating around which is roughly hire a winner and just get out of their way. Well, that doesn’t work for long. At a certain point, any person, no matter how talented, is stopped by the organizational hierarchy of a company. So “getting out of the way” for some projects is certainly possible short-term, but it’s not a long-term strategy. The only viable long-term strategy is to grow yourself.
I generally call this phenomenon upward pressure. I have managed the whole spectrum — average performers, low performers, high performers. No one had more expectations or exerted more upward pressure on me than the high performers. Not even my own manager. When I did things, I was always watched. Did I do it elegantly or did I brute force my way through it? Was I thoughtful or careless? Was I intuitive or analytical? Did I take a few steps to do it or manage it in one fell swoop? Having to manage top performers made me step up my own game.
And contrary to most popular advice out there, that was harder than having low performers. Because when you have a low performer, you already know how to do the job. You just step in. Yes, it’s more work, but it’s work you already know. Average performers likewise don’t push the envelope and you’re largely allocating work and slowly taking on improvements at your own pace. But high performers? You need to persistently improve. They’ll push you to do things you’re not even ready for — and you need to evolve at their pace, not yours.
So, want to improve? Hire a top performer.
Thanks for reading Compressed! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.