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    Your High Performer and How They Accelerate Achievement of The Organization’s Goals

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    Courtesy of Iven Joseph

    By Dr. Ivan Joseph

    When I was a new coach, one of the first things I did was enrol in a coaching license. I was excited because it was being taught by Anson Dorrance, head coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels. He had won 14 national championships and led the US women to Olympic and World Cup gold medals. I hung onto every word he said like it was gospel truth.

    One of his lessons has stuck with me for over 30 years. He shared a story about young Mia Hamm. She had swagger and her teammates did not embrace her. She was always challenging the status quo. If there was a free kick in front of the goal, she wanted it instead of deferring to the veteran. She believed she was the best. As you can imagine, this riled up her teammates. They started to ostracize her and make her time difficult on the team. Dorrance stated that the most important thing he did that year was to have Mia’s back. The team didn’t know it, but they needed Mia and her competitive mindset to build their culture.

    A high performer can make life uncomfortable for those who appreciate routine. Our job as leaders is to guard against groupthink—the phenomenon where individuals within a group prioritize harmony and conformity over critical thinking and innovation. Groupthink leads to stifling dissenting opinions and overlooking potential pitfalls. For high performers, who thrive on creativity and independence, groupthink can be particularly detrimental.

    Educate the team about why bringing in high performers that disrupt the status quo is good for the organization. Help the team appreciate and accept the value in this person. I didn’t use the word ‘tolerate’ here because it’s got to be appreciate for the high performer to thrive.

    Tips for protecting your high performer:

    1.     Recognition: Celebrate the achievements of high performers publicly. Show up to their initiatives and recognize their contributions in front of key stakeholders in order to quiet the resistors.
    2.     Address Negative Behaviours: Be vigilant in identifying and addressing negative behaviours that undermine the contributions of high performers. Encourage only constructive feedback and hold individuals accountable for toxic actions.
    3.     Create Support Networks: Foster connections among high performers where they can seek advice and collaborate on projects. Assign a mentor who unfailingly has their back–to give wise counsel about what to stay away from and what to pursue.

    As leaders, we’re going to have team members come at us to complain about the high performer. Remember why you recruited the high performer and how they accelerate achievement of the organization’s goals. Their job is to challenge the status quo. This will ruffle feathers! Encourage resisters to see value in the changes you’re sponsoring, and put an end to toxic defensive behaviors. Let’s commit to safeguarding environments where high performers can thrive.

    About Dr. Ivan Joseph:

    Ivan Joseph
    Dr. Ivan Joseph

    Dr. Joseph is the Associate Men’s Head Soccer Coach at Graceland University and the Vice-President, Student Affairs at Wilfrid Laurier University where his role encompasses a wide range of responsibilities including enriching the student experience, strategic planning, fundraising, marketing, and development of sports facilities. Dr. Joseph served in similar capacity as Vice Provost, Student Affairs at Dalhousie University before choosing to return home to be closer to family.

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