“Hey, Jill, you got a minute?” Amy asks.

Jill wearily glances up from her email and turns to see Amy, her superstar employee, in her doorway.  “Sure, I guess.  I am a bit busy with the latest fire drill for senior management.  What do you need?”

“Well, there is no easy way to say this, but I am resigning.  I am going down the road to work for Greener Fields USA.”

Jill, now fully engaged with Amy, says, “I am shocked!  What made you want to do this?  We love you here and your future is so bright.”

Amy says, “Well, it just seemed Greener Fields might offer more development and the work is interesting and exciting to me.”

Has this ever happened to you?  I know it has happened to me and there is nothing worse than losing a superstar.  The worst part is that, when I reflect back, there was so much more I could have done to keep this person with our team.  What about you?  Were there signs?  What would you do differently?

Let’s chat about some ways to retain and engage our superstars.  First, we have to know they are superstars.  Many of us are scrambling through our tasks fighting fires and we do not even notice outstanding performance.  Additionally, we spend an enormous amount of time on our bottom 20% performers; fixing their mistakes, corralling their underperformance, or living in their drama.  Thus, the first question is:  “Do you know who your superstars are?”

Daniel Pink outlined key ways to motivate your team in his book, Drive.  Here are 3 keys:

·       Purpose.  Can you connect your superstar’s work to the company’s core purpose?  If not, why are they working on what they are working on?  When you recognize their performance, connect it to making a difference for the organization, the customer etc.

·       Autonomy.  Are you giving your superstar the room to create their own solutions?  Superstars need some guidance, but they also love room for their creativity so they can grow and develop.

·       Mastery.  Are you allowing your superstars to master what they are working on?   Many times we move our superstars from project to project and burn them out without allowing them time to get great at something.

The biggest complaints I hear from superstars that I coach are that they do not feel recognized for their efforts and that there is not a focus on their development.  The literature suggests that we recognize our team at a rate of five compliments for every one piece of corrective feedback.  Most superstars report about a 1:1 ratio of positive to negative feedback.  Put time on your calendar to recognize all team members, but concentrate some time for your superstars.

The last thought for today is dedicate time on your calendar to provide feedback, coaching, and development for your superstars.  They are doing great work and they want to do even better.  However, we tend to cancel their 1:1s or never quite seem to have enough time to spend with them.  Take time to mentor your superstars and see what happens!