Lancer Insurance
Monday, June 24, 2024

By Amy Cooley

Meet Alex, a chauffeur recognized for top-notch customer service and an excellent driver safety rating. Alex’s performance metrics are exemplary, earning glowing reviews and repeat business. However, Alex’s behavior with teammates reveals a challenge: Alex is reluctant to go with the flow when the inevitable happens. Alex has favorite service types and clients and vehicles, and often acts out when assigned to other trips, even to the point of bullying dispatchers. Afraid to leave trips unfulfilled or to lose a highly requested chauffeur altogether, dispatch assigns Alex to the “best” trips, which causes resentment amongst other chauffeurs.

HR Coach Amy Cooley As an operator in this industry, leveraging high performers like Alex while addressing team dynamics is crucial. Alex the chauffeur is only an example—the same principles apply to any key role in your operation. Here are strategic tips gleaned from expert insights to effectively manage high performers in key roles:

1. Lead by Example: As a small business owner, your leadership sets the tone for the entire operation. Lead by example through demonstrating the values of teamwork, respect, and collaboration. Communicate with transparency and trust. Act with integrity, always.

2. Acknowledge and Appreciate Excellent Performance: High performers like Alex thrive on recognition. Beyond acknowledging their individual contributions publicly, consider personalized incentives such as bonuses or additional responsibilities. However, ensure that recognition doesn’t overshadow addressing any negative impacts on team dynamics. Balance praise with constructive feedback to maintain a healthy team dynamic. Bullying is not acceptable.

3. Clear Expectations: Communication is paramount. Besides outlining role responsibilities, delve into the behavioral aspects crucial for being a team player. Emphasize the importance of flexibility, teamwork, and mutual respect for the success of the whole company. Encourage someone like Alex to share their expertise with newer team members—the more engaged this top-notch chauffeur is with teammates, the more invested they will be in others’ success as well as their own.

4. Open Communication Channels: Create opportunities for regular check-ins beyond formal evaluations. One-on-one meetings provide high performers like Alex with opportunities to express concerns, share ideas, and seek guidance. Actively listen to their feedback, addressing any challenges or conflicts proactively. Encourage transparency and honesty to build trust and strengthen the manager-employee relationship.

5. Development Opportunities: Tailor development plans to high performers’ career aspirations and areas for growth. Provide opportunities for specialized training, mentorship programs, or leadership seminars to enhance their skills and knowledge. Empower them to take on some leadership responsibilities—perhaps assist with training new hires, lead a portion of a team meeting, or head up a small team to brainstorm potential solutions to a problem the company is facing. These kinds of opportunities can foster a collaborative mindset while also nurturing their potential as future leaders.

6. Emphasize Collaboration: Highlight team achievements that resulted from high performers working together effectively. Think of the large corporate event that went off without a hitch thanks to the CSRs who took excellent notes, asked the right questions, and inspired the confidence of the client to confirm the booking; the dispatchers who expertly coordinated trip and vehicle assignments, monitored GPS systems, and adjusted driving routes to account for an accident tying up traffic; the chauffeurs who stayed in communication, were flexible and prompt, drove safely and smoothly, and presented a professional demeanor; and the mechanics and detailers who ensured that each vehicle was well-maintained and in executive run-ready condition. Encourage cross-functional engagement—and learning—to help high performers understand the bigger picture, and the value of each role in the operation. Celebrating and rewarding team successes will help to reinforce a culture of collaboration.

7. Address Toxic Behavior: When toxic behavior surfaces, take swift and decisive action. Initiate confidential discussions with the individual to understand underlying issues and offer support or counseling if needed. Clearly communicate expectations regarding behavior standards, highlighting the non-negotiable aspects that impact team dynamics and company culture. It is sometimes difficult for a manager to communicate about negative attitudes and behaviors because they don’t always appear to be straightforward or objective. Remember that your core values and standards of behavior are also policies that your team members have acknowledged. And consider that some behaviors may constitute insubordination or other violations that are universally understood in the employer-employee relationship. Implement performance improvement plans or disciplinary actions as necessary, prioritizing the well-being of the team. If you are uncertain, work with a human resources expert who can help you with your strategy.

8. Cost-Benefit Analysis: Conduct a thorough assessment of the costs associated with the toxic behaviors. The costs come not only to the general happiness quotient or morale and culture of your operation, but those subjective costs have real financial impact. High turnover, lost productivity, legal risks, and the time and effort to manage this difficult employee all detract from work both in and on the business. And remember that the costs can be even higher the more impact the role has in the business. Compare these costs against the tangible contributions of the high performer, considering client satisfaction, revenue generation, and overall team performance. You may find your “high performer” simply isn’t one when you take the whole into account.

After careful consideration and extensive coaching attempts to improve Alex’s teamwork, respect, and communication skills, it becomes evident that the costs of retaining him, despite exceptional driving and customer service skills, outweigh the benefits. In a respectful and transparent manner, the management team communicates with Alex about the decision to part ways. While it’s a difficult choice, it’s made with the team’s and the business’s best interests in mind, prioritizing a healthy work environment.

While Alex’s case highlights the necessity of addressing toxic behavior promptly, not every situation ends in parting ways. Many high-performing employees can undergo positive behavioral changes with the right coaching and support. For instance, I once worked with a client facing challenges with a difficult dispatcher whose negative attitude disrupted team productivity. However, through implementing strategies like those outlined above, this dispatcher’s attitude was transformed. It took time and effort, but the employee has become more reliable, open to feedback, and positive in their interactions with both teammates and management.

Navigating challenging behaviors from key players requires a balance of empathy and objectivity. Partnering with an HR or management expert can provide the clarity and perspective needed to manage such situations effectively and maintain a healthy work culture.   [CD0524]

Amy Cooley is HR Leader for The LMC Groups. She can be reached at