How do you react to your star employee with high positive feedbacks?

Hello all,
A quick question for managers:
As a PM manager, what do you do if one of your direct reports has all positive 360 feedback and very little to no feedback for “opportunities”?
I think the employee is stellar as well. What should I do and/or avoid in my 1:1 feedback chat with the employee?

8 Likes

Two ideas - 1) You can ask them what areas they are looking to improve. If they are a high performer they likely have some thoughts there. 2) You can go back to this person’s peers and ask more specific questions, such as “this person received high marks in their current role. If they were to move to X role, what areas of improvement would be key to them transitioning successfully?”

7 Likes

+1 to going back to their peers

You can also look at upcoming projects and see what opportunities will be coming. Perhaps they’ll be able to work on stakeholder management? Or cross functional alignment? Or analytical skills? Often times the skills we want to improve on are dependent to having the opportunity

6 Likes

This is either a sham or is great. If everyone agrees that the employee is a star, including you, then lean into that. Focus on what they want to achieve next and keep giving them ownership!
Looking for improvement feedback is fine, but don’t force it. Give the employee the runway to grow!

6 Likes

“Opportunities” in this context shouldn’t be constrained to “opportunities for improvement”.
What is this person’s career trajectory? What are they passionate about? What are their dreams and aspirations, and how can you help them get there?
If they’re strictly an IC PM and are absolutely stellar, are they interested in coaching or potentially leading other PMs? What does their path to GPM or Director of VP or whatever look like?
Or maybe they want to increase their impact and scope. What does their path to Senior or Principal look like?
Or just maybe they’re not really interested in moving up the career ladder at all. Maybe they want to start their own company. I’m sure it would hurt to lose this person, but if that’s where they’re headed, what gaps can you help fill in that will prepare them to strike out on their own?
Whatever path they want to take, if they’re effectively maxed out on skills and comprehension for their current role, how can you help them level up to whatever’s next?

5 Likes

On a lighter note, I would give them bigger challenges, so that they would screw up more, and then I would consider evaluating them… :grin:

5 Likes

@Jesus, @Felipe & @Samantha, What if the report is not interested in moving to X role? It could be lateral or vertical. But what if the employee is happy where they are, but are exceeding all expectations for that role and do not want to move?

4 Likes

Not specific to this one person, I would set the expectation with everyone who provides 360 degree feedback that they need to provide solid feedback on growth opportunities and areas where the person could invest to be even more valuable. It’s an expectation and they shouldn’t just phone it in.

Sending that general message sets expectations and provides con text in case you send feedback back to the submitter to make adjustments before resubmitting.

4 Likes

@Angela, I love this question. We put so much emphasis as a culture on leveling up, getting promoted, earning more money, or making some jump to somewhere else that the very notion of being perfectly content with being great at something in stasis seems almost alien.
This may be a controversial perspective, but in those cases I believe it’s perfectly appropriate to let it ride. Let the person know that they’re doing a great job, encourage them to keep up the great work, provide specific examples of them doing great work to reinforce what “great” looks like, and then move on. Sometimes someone who excels at their craft in a specific domain provided a specific scope is enough. :slightly_smiling_face:

3 Likes

As a somewhat related aside, prior to working in Product I spent a lot of time in the contact center industry. I’ve worked with so many truly exceptional contact center agents who really just wanted to do that. They had no aspirations to be promoted into management roles. They were amazing. There’s no reason whatsoever the same ethos can’t apply to any role.

3 Likes

Absolutely. Totally agree. In this case, I guess knowing or understanding what the employee actually wants without the fear of judgement is important, I think. As you rightly called out, we as a culture put a lot of emphasis on leveling up.

3 Likes

You nailed it. Our responsibility as leaders is to help people be the best possible versions of their professional selves that they aspire to be. We may unlock untapped or unconscious potential, but it is not our place to try to effect change in whatever’s in someone’s heart.

2 Likes

Loving this question here and wanted to add two cents here — really really make sure that you and the direct reports are aligned on expectations.
Some might have an expectation of growth, some don’t, and that’s okay. But if there’s not alignment on expectation, or if its assumed alignment (which at times could be worse), then you risk fostering resentment within your team culture.
Source: I’ve been someone managed where folks “assumed” I was good, but really was fostering resentment as an early career employee who didn’t know how to speak up and advocate for myself yet.

2 Likes

Loving this question here and wanted to add two cents here — really really make sure that you and the direct reports are aligned on expectations.
Some might have an expectation of growth, some don’t, and that’s okay. But if there’s not alignment on expectation, or if its assumed alignment (which at times could be worse), then you risk fostering resentment within your team culture.
Source: I’ve been someone managed where folks “assumed” I was good, but really was fostering resentment as an early career employee who didn’t know how to speak up and advocate for myself yet.

1 Like

And I also think there’s room to hone your craft, even if you’re incredibly good at it. If you look across professions you’ll see those best in class still pushing themselves.

1 Like

At the risk of veering into the realm of semantics, staying current with your craft isn’t the same as growth opportunities in the context of the question. Ensuring that you’re adapting, trying new techniques, learning as the landscape evolves, etc. are really table stakes for almost any profession. The idea of someone excelling at what they do implies some degree of currency, which is why we see so few COBOL engineers in the market today.
My partner, for example, is an educator. She’s a really amazing teacher, and she’s been recognized as such by her district. She doesn’t want to become an administrator or a principal or a formal educator of educators. A fundamental requirement of her job is that she stay up to date with developments in pedagogy; if she didn’t, then she wouldn’t be considered an expert in her field.