The Need to Check In - Focusing on High Performers
It has been a devastating couple of weeks in the news. Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade and Scott Hutchison from the band Frightened Rabbit, are no longer with us. All of them gone too soon. All of them were influencers, high performers, inspirations and staples of their fields. We looked up to them and on the surface, everything was ok. Obviously, they were not.
I was a fan of all three. Kate Spade as an amazing entrepreneur. Bourdain as a writer, chef and TV personality. Scott Hutchinson as a performer who touched me with his lyrics and stage presence (and amazing Scottish accent). I can’t help but wonder what kind of support they had. If people were checking on their wellbeing. If the ones closest to them reached out not to say how great they were, but to ask them if they needed anything. I don’t know the answer to these questions. Maybe they did have the support they needed, and it was just inevitable.
However, more often than not we typically tend to “forget” the ones that do well. The high performers. The influencers. The ones that are changing the world. We see them as invulnerable stars that are kicking ass and that couldn’t possibly need a helping hand. It’s only natural. We tend to focus on those we can see are having a hard time. The ones that struggle. It’s no surprise that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. But what about those who put up a good front. How do we reach them?
This occurs constantly in business teams. I understand that it is not comparable to the struggle of the examples above, but the loss of these great people is a reminder that we need to focus not only on the ones that are struggling, but also on the ones that are performing well. We cannot let the fact that they seem to be fine stop us from ensuring their wellbeing.
I am a big fan of the sitcom Scrubs (been binging it on Hulu) and one particular episode comes to mind on the subject of checking in on your high performers. In this episode Sean Hayes (Jack from Will and Grace) guest starts as a young hot shot internal medicine Dr. that seems to be unflappable. He gives great presentations, has all the answers and all the girls think he has a cute butt. He is treating a young kid who is not responding to treatment. Every time a nurse asks the Dr. what to do he says: “no problem” and gives them further direction. At the end of the episode we see him break down and quit because he can’t handle the fact that the kid is going to die and there is nothing he can do about it. It didn’t matter that he was the best Dr., that he knew what to do, and that he seemed like he had everything going for him. He was struggling. He needed support. Behind all that confidence and hard work was someone that needed his leaders. The result was that a high performer burned out. Maybe the story would be different if there was more focus on checking if he needed support. Here is the episode:
Now let’s look at a typical work environment. Normally you will see high performers and low performers working side by side. The leadership team typically spends 80% of their time focusing on their falling stars and leaving their rising stars alone, because they get stuff done. In addition, the high performers are likely to be assigned more work, be given more responsibility, have higher expectations…
But shouldn’t it be the other way around? What could our high performers achieve if we provided them with the same effort and support that we spend on our problem staff? Maybe it’s time to flip our focus. Maybe if we focus on those that are high achievers we will avoid having them burn out. Maybe they can be even more.
Let’s take the lessons we learned from the tragedies we saw this month and try and make some positive change. Let’s focus not only on those who are crying for help, but also on those who are crying inside. Let’s make sure that no matter who it is, we are checking in with them. It is the least we can do.
I’ll leave you with a lyric from “My Backwards Walk”, one of my favorite songs by Frightened Rabbit.
If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, please call the suicide prevention lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States.
Andre Mello is a Business Coach and is devastated by the losses we have seen this month. He has been in marketing and leadership for over 17 years. If you would like to connect with Andre please visit www.wysecoaching.com.