Give your top performers deadlines to help them succeed and reduce burnout.  You read that right.  Now, I know when you think about your top performer you think that you simply need to stay out of her way.  She knows her part of the business, she is a strong communicator, and she always delivers.  But you see, that last part right there, the “always delivers,” that’s what is killing her right now.

Your high performer wants to exceed your expectations. That’s her goal, it’s always her goal.  Each day she wakes up trying to decide what she is going to overdeliver on in order to make you proud.  But without deadlines to help her prioritize her work, she’s stressed.  You see, she has 6 projects on her plate and you just told her to get to them when she can.  So that sounds like a test to her.  That sounds like she has to show you she can juggle all of the functions in her job and deliver on the 6 projects today.  

As you think about that you quickly realize that you never intended for that to happen.  You simply wanted her to get to the projects when she got to them.  You trust her judgment, again she always delivers, and you know when she has time she will get you the information you need.  Do you see the two disconnects?

Right now, life is stressful for her, just like everyone else.  She’s trying to juggle working remotely, her family, the demands of her team also working remotely, and now she has to find the time to continue to exceed your expectations, which is her driving force and motivator. She needs your praise!  So give it to her, as you are also giving her a deadlines for each of the 6 projects so she knows when each one is due, can structure her day, and still exceed your expectations by delivering project number 3 on Thursday instead of Friday.   This is what your top performer needs from you each day, but especially right now.