No, Your Superstars Don’t Want to Manage Themselves

How much of my management time should I spend on each member of my team? It’s a question many managers have asked themselves at some point. Should they spend more time with the low performers? The average performers? Should they split their time equally among everyone, regardless of performance? (The short answer to that last one is no.)

But what most managers assume is their superstars—the highest performers and most reliable employees—are best left alone to manage themselves.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that anyone, regardless of where they fall on the performance spectrum, wants to be micromanaged. And yes, some people do require less management time than others. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that superstars either want to be left alone or are better off that way. Any superstar performer worth keeping is going to want a highly-engaged leader.



As the manager, you have the power to recognize and reward

One of the biggest transformations in the workplace resulting from the Great Generational Shift is employee perception of managers. It used to be that one’s manager was someone generally to be avoided—if the boss came knocking on your door, odds are it wasn’t good news. Over the past decade, there has been a shift away from this mindset.

Nowadays nearly everyone at work views their manager as integral to their own career success. After all, the manager is the one who assigns choice projects, decides who will work with whom, and has influence over rewards and promotions. Managers are the link between lower-level employees and high-level decision makers within the company. They advocate on their teams’ behalf. They recognize people’s efforts and ensure that those efforts are also recognized by others.

Managers have a lot of power over the careers and livelihood of their employees. Superstars know this better than anyone.



The best employees aren’t willing to lie low

It also used to be conventional wisdom that in order to climb the corporate ladder and succeed, it was best for one to lie low at work and be noticed as little as possible day-to-day. Following that advice today would be a surefire way to indefinitely stall your career.

Again, the superstars know this better than anyone. As a result, they know that having quality face time with their managers is indicative of improvement and career success. Being ignored by your manager? That means you’re going nowhere fast.


The key word here is quality. Superstars know when they’re being humored. They’re also probably pretty good at quantifying results. If you have a high performer who insists on having more of your management time, don’t meet with them as a way to get them off your back. Invest as much time in helping them succeed as they invest in helping you succeed.


Managers help create an upward spiral of performance—for anyone

A lot of managers believe that their superstars are so good that there’s nowhere for them to go, no ways they could possibly improve. Or, put a different way, managers come to believe they have nothing more to offer their superstars. If that is truly the case, it doesn’t mean that person doesn’t need a manager. It just means they should have a different manager.

The reality is there is always room for improvement. That’s true no matter who you are or what you do.


Managers don’t need to reinvent the wheel to help their highest performers succeed. Creating an upward spiral of performance—for anyone on the performance spectrum—is simply about practicing the back-to-basics fundamentals of management. It’s about having regular, ongoing 1:1 conversations with every employee on the team, including the superstars.

Strong leadership sends the message, “You are important and what you do here is important.” If you want your superstars to stick around and continue doing great work for you, set them up for success with a strong leader.


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