Every workplace has standouts. These employees are visible champions, the people who emulate everything a company strives for. Sometimes the true champions are hard to find, but it’s a worthwhile venture to take the time to pinpoint and properly showcase such employees. Aside from celebrating and motivating the individual champion, positive reinforcement can even encourage others in the company, creating more champions.

Hiding in Plain Sight

The first step to maximizing your workplace champions is, of course, identifying them. The true champions aren’t always especially outgoing, and it can be difficult to find those who quietly excel at what they do. The best way to find your most skilled employees is to get to know them. Spend time learning about all the people in your direct line of influence. This can be done through talent reviews and assessments, which are perfect for gaining insight into the contributions of the “quiet ones.”

Beyond technical methods, though, you can also take a personal approach. Spend some time with your talent after meetings to get to know them a little better. Consult with their bosses concerning their contributions and how best to recognize them. Remember that one size does not necessarily fit all when it comes to recognition. Sometimes simply the fact that you acknowledged a champion’s work or gave them a verbal chance to shine is enough!

The Visible Versus the Leadership Spotlight

Once a workplace champion is made visible, sometimes the natural next step is elevated leadership, but not always. It depends on what the outstanding employee was recognized for. Say you’ve noticed a technical expert for their innovative take on an old work process or for an idea they have for a better way to do the job. Should they be recognized? Absolutely. But consider their contribution: just because they have a great technical idea does not necessarily mean they are a natural leader or even want a leadership role. So before reassigning roles, take the opportunity to discuss the champion’s career aspirations with them. Find out what they’re passionate about. If leading others is where they want to grow, then it’s a great idea to take those next steps toward leadership.

When grooming a new leader, keep in mind that leading people requires a very different skill set from being a technical expert. There are several things you’ll need to do to help the new leader effectively manage his/her role.

  • Assess their current leadership capability in a formal way.
  • Engage in development and coaching to help the new leader learn the necessary skills.
  • Provide appropriate assignments to test skills and behavior.
  • Personally provide feedback as they learn and apply the new skills.
  • Keep up the recognition: catch them doing the job right and praise them for it.

Once certain colleagues are recognized, other workers can be encouraged to excel in the same ways. Peer coaching is an excellent tool to use. An environment in which it is expected that employees will offer positive and constructive coaching to help their colleagues improve or learn new approaches is a great way to develop more champions.

Did We Mention Communication?

Along with peer coaching comes, naturally, communication. Communicate, communicate, and communicate again the best practices, and how employees can learn from each other. Create a learning culture and not one where employees compete against one another. Encourage everyone to be the best in their job and help their colleagues be the best in their jobs.

When collaboration is high and people are excited about what they do and who they work with, you’ll find that absenteeism and turnover are low while employee engagement is high: all elements of a high-performing workplace culture. An organization with a culture of champions has an air of excitement and energy you can feel – help people believe in their own success and create an office full of champions!