A talented team inspires and mentors others, fostering a culture of excellence and continuous improvement, writes  LINUS OKORIE

Top talent is an invaluable asset for any team. Across all job types, it is estimated that “A” performers are between four to six times more productive than “B” performers. Research conducted by the Harvard Business Review supports this, showing that top talent outperforms in every industry, geographical region, and type of organization examined.

In sports, a prime example of the impact of top talent can be seen in the 1992 United States men’s Olympic basketball team, commonly known as the “Dream Team.” This team, composed of NBA legends like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird, dominated the competition and won the gold medal in the Barcelona Olympics. The Dream Team won its games by an average of 44 points, showcasing how a group of top performers can achieve remarkable success and set new standards in their field. Their unparalleled skill, teamwork, and determination not only led to their victory but also elevated the global profile of basketball, inspiring future generations of players.

Elite athletes, like top-performing employees, significantly outshine their peers, driving their teams to new heights with their exceptional skills, dedication, and performance. Just as a star player in sports can transform the dynamics of a game, leading to more victories and higher team morale, an A-Team member in a business setting can catalyze innovation, improve efficiency, and elevate overall team performance. Their influence extends beyond individual contributions, as they often inspire and mentor others, fostering a culture of excellence and continuous improvement.

Investing in top talent and nurturing an environment where they can thrive is crucial for any organization aiming to maintain a competitive edge and achieve sustained success. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to organize and manage these high performers.

Before you can even begin to assemble such a team, you need to have the right talent management practices, so you lead them to consistently deliver peak performance. Many organizations are increasingly hiring talents who cater to a global market through various remote job platforms. They bring some measure of experience and specialized skills, having worked with a diverse range of clients. However, they often come with different demands and expectations shaped by their previous engagements, which can lead to conflicts of interest with the hiring organization.

In some cases, these conflicts only arise when they are being micromanaged. Micromanagement can stifle creativity and reduce job satisfaction, leading to disengagement and frustration. For the top-performing ones, excessive oversight among many other things can feel restrictive, as it prevents them from leveraging their full potential and applying their expertise effectively. Consequently, they may begin to explore other opportunities that allow them to channel their energy and creativity into more worthwhile tasks.

Additionally, they may seek to increase their income, especially if they feel they are not being compensated appropriately for their skills and efforts. Inadequate pay can drive them to look for better-paying opportunities, leading to a potential conflict of interest if they start prioritizing work that offers better financial rewards over their current commitments. Unequivocally, this means that you have to provide the appropriate leadership, support, and incentives to these people who are considered as stars in their own right.

Leading a team is hard. Leading a team of all-stars is even more challenging. Very little work gets done by individuals in today’s business world. Almost everything is accomplished through teamwork. Great teams—those comprised of diverse and talented individuals—can achieve extraordinary things in record time. The true magic happens when a group of all-stars comes together, combining their unique skills and strengths to drive innovation, efficiency, and success. However, harnessing the full potential of such a team requires exceptional management and a deep understanding of each member’s capabilities and motivations.

Understanding their strengths is foundational to effective talent management. Just as sports coaches analyze player skills to maximize team performance, leaders must identify and leverage the strengths of each team member as they take on different projects. By aligning tasks with individual strengths, leaders can optimize productivity and job satisfaction, ensuring that each team member contributes effectively to the overall goals.

Giving them autonomy is crucial for empowering talented individuals. Much like in sports, where star players are entrusted with making critical decisions on the field, allowing autonomy fosters creativity and initiative among team members. When individuals have the freedom to make decisions within their roles, they take ownership of their work and are more motivated to innovate and problem-solve. This autonomy not only enhances individual performance but also contributes to a more agile and responsive team dynamic.

Embracing their disruptive qualities entails recognizing and encouraging innovative thinking and unconventional approaches. We know that innovative strategies can lead to game-changing outcomes, embracing disruptive qualities in talent encourages fresh perspectives and breakthrough solutions in digital transformation projects. Leaders should create an environment where creativity is valued and risk-taking is supported, enabling talented individuals to challenge the status quo and drive innovation.

Avoiding favoritism is essential for maintaining a fair and inclusive work environment. In sports, fair treatment of all players is critical for team cohesion and morale. In talent management, showing impartiality and fairness in decision-making builds trust and loyalty among team members. Leaders should base rewards, recognition, and opportunities on merit and performance, ensuring that every team member feels valued and motivated to contribute their best.

Acknowledging their contributions is vital for boosting morale and reinforcing positive behaviors. Leaders should regularly acknowledge and celebrate both individual and team successes, highlighting the impact of their efforts on project outcomes. This recognition not only motivates individuals but also fosters a culture of appreciation and camaraderie within the team.

Creating harmony within the team involves clarifying roles and responsibilities. Sports coaches understand the importance of every player knowing their position and that of their teammates. Similarly, implementing a RACI matrix—defining who is Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed for each aspect—can prevent misunderstandings and promote collaboration. Clear communication of these roles ensures alignment and prevents individual deviations.

Conclusively, leadership is the cornerstone of effective talent management, influencing the direction, motivation, and performance of teams. Just as a pack of sheep led by a lion will outperform a pack of lions led by a sheep, strong leadership ensures that even great team members can excel under optimal conditions. Leaders provide clarity and direction, articulating a compelling vision that inspires and aligns team members toward common goals. They will also set high standards of excellence and hold team members accountable for their actions and outcomes. They promote collaboration and teamwork, leveraging diverse talents and perspectives to solve complex problems and achieve superior results.

 Okorie MFR is a leadership development expert spanning 30 years in the research, teaching and coaching of leadership in Africa and across the world. He is the CEO of the GOTNI Leadership Centre.

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