We all have someone at the top of the pack, an outstanding employee we can entrust with virtually any project or situation. The one we are terrified will leave. The one we wish we could clone.
It's not exactly cloning, but you wish you could create a new generation of employees instilled with your best employee's values--and keep the original engaged and happy in your organization at the same time.
It may sound too good to be true, but I've seen it happen. Here's how:
1. Start by thanking them--the right way. Provide them with very specific recognition that lets them know exactly what you value in their work and how they make a difference. The key is to be as detailed and specific as possible in the abilities, attitudes, and actions you appreciate in them, and the benefits they bring to the organization.
2. Find out what they value. What's important to them? What makes them happy, and what do they need to continue to succeed? Just recognizing people's drivers and needs is a huge step in making them feel valued. And the more valued your best employees feel, the better.
3. Prepare them for leadership. Let your high performer know that you want to help them prepare them for a leadership role. Then guide them as they learn to articulate their values and principles in a way that others can understand and follow. When the rest of your staff sees you coaching the best, it sends a message that even the most effective employees require training and coaching in leadership, which eliminates resentment issues.
4. Plan for ongoing development. Make sure you're providing the training, help, and support your superstar needs at every step along the way. Some can come from you and some will better come from others. Look at your own strengths and weaknesses, and think about what forms of support have been most important to you.
5. Teach them to listen. Help them become the person that others in your organization trust with their challenges and concerns by teaching them to focus not only on what's being said but on nonverbal and contextual cues, to seek the underlying issues and frustrations that may be at work, and to always be attentive and responsive.
6. Have them lead by example. Turn your new leader loose to see what they do well, and give them a chance to shine. Stay supportive and involved, but don't interfere unless you see a significant issue.
Allow your best people to lead by example and set the tone for others to follow, and you may find that their greatness is contagious.