I was reading one of my daily newsletters, Early to Rise, and came across an article by Michael Masterson which addressed exceeding your potential by surrounding yourself with superior people. Masterson relayed the story of a young woman who was succeeding brilliantly at her company, but wanted to leave. When he asked her why, she said that although her boss was a wonderful person and an excellent businessman, she had ideas to expand the business and make it more interesting, but her boss rejected all of her ideas because he had a particular way of doing business. Frustrated and sure that she could make a difference elsewhere, she decided to leave. I can understand that, having experienced it myself. And so can a lot of people who are dynamic, committed, and innovative.
As Masterson says in his article, the 'superstars' don't often leave because of money. Sure, money is often a factor, and law firms, like businesses, need to ensure that their top performers are paid well. But, for most high performers, interesting work, personal and professional development, and a chance to contribute to the firm in a meaningful way often mean far more than the paycheck alone.
Masterson's advice on keeping superstars:
- Invest in your top performers.
- Continually weed out the weak performers and replace them with stronger ones.
- Treat your people well by giving them what they need - which sometimes means being tough, but always means being fair.
- Give your best people lots of good work to do.
Finally, Masterson suggests asking yourself these questions, and re-evaluating your priorities if you answer 'no' to any of them:
- Have I hired anyone in the past few years who is as good as or better than I am?
- Am I willing to have someone who is smarter than I am work for me?
- Would I give a superstar employee the chance to demonstrate his superiority?
Sometimes it's a leap of faith to allow a superstar to shine, particularly if that superstar might outshine some of those that are already at the top. And law firms often fear that allowing a superstar more responsibility, more ways to shine, more access to clients, more free rein will give them the tools they need to leave and perhaps to take some of the firm's clients with them. But the greater risk is in preventing these top performers from doing challenging and complex work, and from putting their ideas into action. That virtually assures that they will leave. Not only are you likely to lose a superstar, but by consistently treating your superstars that way, you're likely to attract less of them in the future.