I was recently recruiting for a Senior Legal Director who had a team member who demonstrated many high potential behaviours.

Within six months the Director had a career development discussion with her and found that she was interested in data protection. The Director found her some training and transitioned her into a new position with data protection and privacy responsibilities.

Since then, the lawyer has taken to the new role and enjoys the challenges that it brings with it. If the Director hadn’t had recognised her potential, she probably would have moved on and the team would have lost a valuable resource.

Researchers state that high potentials and top achievers have the ability to outperform their peers by anywhere from 25 to 1000%.

High performers set a standard among your team, save time and money, motivate other employees to succeed, allow leaders to reevaluate their hiring process, and increase overall productivity.

It is crucial to keep high performing team members engaged and challenged …or they may get bored and leave. A good legal counsel working for a multinational organisation gets approached by recruiters and competitors once every few weeks.

What can you do to keep a high performer on your legal team?

Here are some approaches that work.

Maslow Pyramid works

Your star lawyers are thirsty for esteem and self-actualisation, the top-level needs on Maslow’s pyramid as their basic physiological and safety needs are usually met. Most of them will have the need for love and belonging met too – via having a family, a circle of friends and colleagues at work.

But your high performer still has the need for esteem and the need for self-actualisation.

Catch them doing things right

A good habit to develop is catching them doing something right – noticing and mentioning their small and big achievements and having genuine curiosity about how they do what they are good at.

A little genuine praise goes a long way. A high performer knows that they are doing well. If all they hear from their manager on completing a mammoth project is an en passant “well done”, they are likely to feel resentful and disappointed. Is this happens regularly, they may take that call from a recruiter.

Create Opportunities

What works for the very top self-actualisation need is an opportunity for your top achievers to create their career paths and professional identities.

Open doors for them. Give them opportunities to meet the company XEOs, your best thinkers and innovators. Feed their hungry minds by exposing them to exciting, inventive, adventurous and passionate people in your organisation. Let them meet industry leaders and icons – both in legal and in your sector.

Send those individuals to retreats, conferences and workshops where they could think about themselves in a more holistic way. Engage them with a journey of self-actualisation and mastery.

Remove mundane tasks

Being a star performer is a blessing and a curse. Hard-working legal counsels are often rewarded with more work because everyone knows that they can get stuff done. When assigning a high achiever to a project or a new team, it’s a good idea to remove administrative hurdles and rote work before piling on more tasks.

Pair them with great colleagues

High performers like to hang out with other high performers. Set up mentoring pairs and groups to help create a strong internal link between your best minds. It works especially well for newly hired employees and successful legacy employees who know how to navigate the political scene.

Perks matter

Money matters to some employees, but you would be surprised with how well you can do with a creative stock program. Also consider rewarding great work with time off. A vacation day in the middle of the week or a flexible starting time is a godsend to someone who is busy, engaged and needs to run errands.

Stay passionate

You have the skills and knowledge that your high performer is still developing. Hopefully you love what you do. (If not, get in touch). Express this passion, talk, chat, share your ideas, ask for theirs, think together and enjoy discovering the amazing mind of this individual on your team. They are with you now, but they won’t stay forever. Your leadership can make them stay for longer.