Giving feedback to a top performer can be stressful.  They know their domain well, may not take kindly to ideas for improvement, and any suggestions may come across as nit picking.  Yet it is important that high performers receive feedback and act on it for even better performance.

The usual guidelines for feedback still apply, so it’s important to remember and deploy the feedback techniques you have used successfully in the past.  At the same time, feedback for your top performers will require a slightly amended playbook.

Here are some ideas:

  • Don’t bend feedback rules for star performers -it’s unwise to assume that your star is perfect and that they will not benefit from a well targeted discussion on improving performance.


  • Don’t assume that there is no room for improvement in your star performer.


  • Star performers get great results that benefit the team and company, but these results can come at a cost. Team morale, communication and team member performance, for example, may be suffering.  If so, this is a ripe area for feedback.


  • Focus on current performance, acknowledge successes and show gratitude for good work done. Then move on to discuss how to push performance to the next level.


  • Make sure that your feedback for your star performers is specific and actionable.


  • Make room to discuss the future and any goals they may have. Be sure your feedback to high performers is actively helping them with their professional development.


  • High performers love frequent feedback, perhaps even once a month. We have seen frequent feedback demanded by Millennials – now that they are making up an increasing share of employees the frequency of feedback will need to go up.


  • In the special case of an unexpected deterioration in performance., take a coaching approach, i.e., use well placed questions to help your colleague understand the situation and to open up. Offer help to get them back on track.

On this final point, it often pays to prioritise coaching and training to the high performer ahead of other team members.  This can result in the best return on investment and may inentivise other team members to up their game.

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