Natalie Dawson, wearing all black with her blonde hair styled into a ponytail, sits behind a desk and talks into a microphone about the importance of incentivizing your top performing team members.

How To Incentivize Your Top Performers, Part 2

June 24, 2022

Creating great working teams is hard work! Let’s make it easier.

If you’ve been in business for any amount of time, you’ve no doubt experienced how difficult it can be to find great talent, keep them engaged in the business, and train them to become great leaders and contributors to your team. 

Over the years, Brandon and I have worked hard at capturing the best managerial and leadership traits, the best team processes, and the best attributes of individual contributors to better formalize how to most effectively integrate people into teams and train them to become tomorrow’s leaders. 

It’s not always easy, but nothing worthwhile typically is. As we say over and over again in the Cardone Ventures world, it’s people that move businesses forward. Without great people at the helm, a business can’t really exist. 

In our last entry, we covered some of the many techniques we use to incentivize our employees to keep them engaged with the business and committed to its mission and vision, so they can clearly see how their contributions affect the business, as well as their opportunities for growth that occur when the business grows. 

Today, we’re going to delve even deeper into those techniques, so you can implement them into your business, making your good people great and 10X-ing your business through your collective efforts.

Incentives aren’t just money. Incentives are future possibilities.

Of course, people are looking for financial growth, but people are also often looking for career growth — new challenges, the adoption of new skills, and the opportunity to push themselves beyond what they’re currently doing in their existing role. 

This is why professional clarity is so important to your organization. In our first installment, we talked about the importance of mapping out the roles that should exist within your organization as it relates to your business’s five to ten year plan. 

On an individual level, this entails creating clarity between different levels of a certain role. Let’s use a Marketing Manager as our example. 

If you have a rockstar top performing marketing manager, you need to let them know that you recognize their skills in the role, and that, given they’re able to continue to meet and exceed expectations, that they have an opportunity to become a Senior Marketing Manager. 

The same is true for someone in an entry-level Junior Marketing Manager Position. Yes, it’s their responsibility to continuously deliver  and improve on their performance, but the onus is on you and your leadership team to define the pathway of what it takes to move from Junior Marketing Manager, to Marketing Manager, to Senior Marketing Manager. 

You need to clearly document what is different about the role. What specifically do they need to accomplish? What are the key performance indicators they need to achieve? What is the financial opportunity associated with each level in the role? 

For example, a Senior Marketing Manager should be able to cross-functionally communicate with your Finance, Operations, and HR teams to create marketing plans that encompass every aspect of the business. They’re more strategic. They’ll think and act more globally regarding the business’s needs and goals. They mentor the Junior and Marketing Manager level people to emulate their best practices. 

What this looks like in specific depends on your business and its goals, but the sooner you and your leadership team document this, the sooner you can start growing your top performers into your next generation of organizational leaders. 

It might surprise you, but there’s a lot of business owners out there who aren’t interested in having this conversation, because they haven’t spent the time to figure these things out. They’re just making it up as they go along, and you know what? They’re losing great people because of it. 

Your people very naturally want to know what’s next for them. They want to know that the mountain in front of them is scalable, and that there’s another even more satisfying mountain just ahead of them to start climbing. 

You don’t need to make this whole process of moving to new roles and responsibilities a long, drawn out one, either. In fact, by making this process a quicker one, you might actually end up getting a better performance out of your people. They’ll feel the next goal isn’t so out of reach, they’ll strive harder, and the entire business will benefit from their hard work. Everyone wins. 

Use your past leadership failures to create new successes

As you’re thinking about the different levels of roles in your organization, you’re likely going to be thinking about all the things that went wrong with past hires. That’s natural. Don’t dwell. Reflect. Reflect and use those insights to enhance your leadership skills and set clear expectations for your team. 

As soon as you start thinking about the team members who didn’t work out in the past, if you’re being truly objective about the situation, you’ll start uncovering reasons not only related to them, but also to gaps that exist within your process or managerial issues that can be resolved. 

Maybe they were really great at their work, but didn’t update the project management system as they were completing tasks. This might seem small, but this lack of communication affects the entire team, which ultimately affects your bottom line. In turn, maybe you or their manager weren’t holding them accountable in these moments! 

What bubbles up to the surface is two important things: 1) your manager team must hold everyone accountable to complete all tasks in your process, and 2) effective project management is a critical piece of your baseline expectations for a Marketing Manager role. 

As you go through this exercise, your expectations become clearer and clearer. Once you’ve documented your thoughts, vetted them with the appropriate team leaders, and formalized them with your HR people, suddenly you have fully formed career paths in your organization. Now you’ve got one less thing to worry about, and your people now know exactly what they need to accomplish in order to grow themselves and your company. Again, everybody wins!

Top performers want — and deserve — real feedback

If you refer back to my blog post from May of 2021, you’ll learn the ins and outs of how to conduct a 1:1 with your team members. This is another critical part of investing in your people, setting expectations, and creating great teams. 

Too many managers wait until after concerning behaviors become a habit before addressing them. Before you know it, these bad behaviors will become the norm, and what’s worse, others in the organization will start to pick up these behaviors, too. Worse yet, your credibility will diminish because you’ll be perceived as looking the other way while things that shouldn’t be happening in the organization are happening right in front of you. 

But there’s yet another important reason why 1:1s matter so much: top performers almost as a rule want feedback, whether it’s positive or negative. These are the sorts of people who want to continuously improve themselves. In a way, they’re making your job easier because they’re not shying away from the more difficult conversations. They want to have them so that they can be better. 

And you should want to have them, because it’s your job as a leader, but when you have them effectively, you’re making the entire organization better. 

So, when you’re in these situations, you need to do more than just provide them critical feedback. You also need to give them guidance on how they can improve their performance, and you need to create a structure of accountability. 

Real feedback. Clear direction for improvement. Accountability to that performance. This is how you incentivize top performers into becoming organizational leaders. 

Don’t forget that your accountability matters, too. You’re making a commitment to this person on your team that you’re invested in their growth. You’re having regular conversations. You’re setting clear expectations. You’re giving them incentives via opportunities, support, and finances that will help them learn and grow and achieve. 

In essence, you’re fostering a top performing contributor to your organization, but you’re also pushing yourself to be a top performing business owner. With that, I encourage you to be great and remember that I’m rooting for you, I’m behind you, and to never give up. Keep going! You’ve got this. 

If you’re looking for more ways in which you can inspire, motivate, and propel your team forward, check out my book, TeamWork, where you’ll learn strategies for building, engaging, and managing great teams!

Recommended Posts

Natalie Dawson is featured in the left side of the image, both hands raised and open, as she speaks at a live Cardone Ventures event. The right side of the image features the blog title.
10 Reasons To Fire An Employee

10 Reasons To Fire An Employee

Reasons to fire an employee aren’t always obvious I’m really excited about sharing these insights with you, because creating a great culture in your business can be a real challenge. Firing people who aren’t the right fit, aren’t contributing to your business’...