“If a guy underperforms, you get rid of him. If a guy overperforms, you take care of him.” – Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers
I cannot agree more with this quote from Antonio Brown. When I was in management, I was fortunate enough to have a very great, over-performing squad who made me look like a genius. I’m not sure they figured it out, but they could’ve gotten away with just about anything as long as they were performing. Constant tardiness, missed meetings, etc. But, here’s the thing, the rub, over-performers/high achievers usually have an internal code that will keep them from taking advantage or abusing their privileges. Another reason why management should take care of their over-performers. Now, I did have a couple of rotten apples, didn’t think they had to work under-performers. And, you know what? They couldn’t get away with anything. If they were late, I was clocking them. Missed one or two deadlines, and we were discussing it with possible HR involvement.
If you’re a fan of the NBA, then you’re familiar with Phil Jackson. Phil was the type of coach that trusted his players to sort things out on the court. He didn’t call a timeout the second his team faced an uphill climb like many coaches will do. He gave them a chance to right the ship, trusting that his team was properly prepared. This is how you treat over-performers. Hands-off. The only time I can recall when Phil Jackson didn’t take this approach was during the NBA Finals when his Lakers faced off against the Detroit Pistons. Sensing that his team had lost their over-performing ways, Phil was up pacing, coaching from the bench and calling timeouts like I’ve never seen him do before or after. That’s the delicate balancing act that leaders must achieve. That is, know when to step in when over-performers fall off their high-achieving ways, but back off when they are achieving.
The other reason you want to take care of your high-performers is that others are watching. If you can be an advocate for your team, taking care of the over-achievers, this will encourage the other team members to buy-in. This aspirational goal becomes the culture of the organization. This makes employees feel valued which increases morale and derails turnover, saving your organization money in the end. In the case of Antonio Brown, some may argue that this is just the business side of the NFL. But, there is a glaring double-standard here. Players are expected to be loyal to the organization. Remember the outcry when LeBron James left the Cavaliers for the Miami Heat? How dare he be so disloyal to his home team! Yet, it is ok for NFL owners to nickel and dime their over-performing players. Since it is a business, players should be expected to go for what’s most important to them. LeBron left because he wanted a championship. The question for Antonio is do you want to play somewhere where you’re most likely to win a Super Bowl, or is the appeal of more zeros on your contract more important? Do you cause them hoes ain’t loyal.