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Transitioning from a High Performing Worker to Managing a High Performing Team

Updated: Aug 24

You have always been the go-getter, the MVP on the field, or the office superstar. That drive for excellence just earned you a big promotion, now you are in charge of a team of other high-achievers. You got here because you are great at setting and smashing your own goals. But guess what? You have entered the world of management, and it is a whole new challenge. This is like a new adventure where your leadership skills will be seriously tested. As you step into this role, you will find out that managing a high-performing team is quite different, and it calls for a whole new set of skills and strategies than what you are used to.

Managing a team that is composed of equally intelligent and skilled people can be very hard. A lot of problems and conflicts might occur. That is why it is very important to understand the proper management strategy in leading a high-performing team. In managing a team like this, it is important to set goals and priorities, one that is aligned to what is expected from the group. With this, the leader is expected to create, mediate, and foresee future dilemmas that might occur during the entire working process. In relation to that, proper and correct assignment of responsibilities based on a member’s area of expertise is important. A leader must be well aware of the capabilities and strength of his/her member, this will allow them to assign responsibility that is best suited for everyone in the team.

However, managing a high-performing team is not that easy. You must be sensitive of your actions all the time because your actions, words and treatment of your teammate might affect their level of competency in working. That is why it is important to create a good relationship with them, this will allow them to be more comfortable in asking questions, suggesting solutions, and overall working together. The leader’s treatment and relationship towards their teammate will always be significant in creating a healthy working environment. That is why it is important to set aside your personal goals, but rather focus on the goals of the team, because there are times that you, as a leader, might be the problem. Your goal as a leader should be focused on leading and motivating your members, it is a crucial feature of a leader. Motivation positively affects an employee's knowledge, skills, and performance. The three human motivators by David McClelland - to be discussed below - is one of the effective tools in managing people.

The Need for Achievement, Affiliation, and Power

David McClelland proposed the study of three human needs, also known as Motivators. He argues that these three motivators are essential in managing a team. According to MaClelland, following these motivators can help with our interaction with people, however, the same motivators can also backfire and affect our work and interaction with people negatively. That is why it is important to use these motivators with caution. And to efficiently use it, one must learn how to understand and properly use these motivators.

The first motivator is, The Need for Achievement. Achievement drive plays a significant role for people’s personal success. Through this we tend to set challenging goals for ourselves to motivate ourselves more. But that is where the problem might occur, it happens when someone fails to redirect their achievement drive away from their personal goals. Because rather than aiming for group success, one might focus more on their personal goal. That being the case, one must learn how to manage and control their achievement drive, rather than it managing them.

As an example, your boss required you to submit the teamwork at 5:00 PM. But unexpectedly one of your teammates fell ill and cannot finish their work. However, it was currently 12:00 PM and your teammate is not yet through with his work. but he assured you he will be done by 3:00 PM. But because you were so impatient and wanted to impress your boss, you decided to do his part from scratch without telling him, you did not even use his prior work that was done already. And by 3:00 PM you submitted the work. In your perspective you might think that you did the right thing as you do not know when your teammate can finish his work. However, on the other hand, that teammate might feel disrespect and not acknowledged by you. His efforts were also wasted only because you wanted to impress your boss even though you have ample time.

With that, the best way to utilize your achievement drive is to use it in helping others succeed and achieve challenging goals, to bring out the best in them. Doing that will make your teammate motivated and inspired to do and learn more. Always remember to not take the spotlight alone, as a leader you must share it with your team all the time. Team’s goal before personal goal all the time.

Second motivator is, The Need for Affiliation. Having boundaries between you and your employees will always be there, however it should not hinder you from being friendly and human towards them. Because at the end of the day we still need friends at work, it makes things easier. Because the team’s success can also be rooted from your ability to connect with people you work with. That is why having a friendly relationship is also important in working as a team. This might also stop the occurrence of possible jealousy within the team - something that you must prevent - because it will always be destructive for you and your team. To avoid that, you must not compare yourself against them and you should not have your favorites amongst your employees.

To give an example on how to use the second motivator, here’s a scenario. It was Friday and your team has been working non-stop for the past 2 weeks to meet your deadlines. Earlier that day, the team just had a successful presentation. And as a reward, you as the leader decided to treat them for dinner. There you just enjoyed casual and personal conversation.

Little moments like that will allow you to build trusting relationships with your peers, and that trust is something that will be beneficial for your team later on.

The third and last motivator is, The Need for Power. The need for power is very human. Though some might say that power is “dirty,” it is due to the fact that a lot of people get tempted into using power for their own good or as what McClelland liked to call “Personalized Power”. However, as a leader/manager you need to have influence or rightful dominance over others. A sense of authority that is rightfully used for the betterment of others and the group - This is what we call socialized power.

For example, the team was in deep brainstorming about a new project that was given by the management. You however noticed that one of your teammates is not doing anything related to what you told her to do. Instead, you saw her watching some video online. As a leader you decided to talk to her in private and kindly explain and correct her mistake. You did this to avoid future delays in the group and at the same time to ensure that everyone is doing their tasks accordingly.

Thereby, your use and misuse of power will not only reflect on you but also to your team. That is why it is important that you know how to manage your role and the power that comes with it.


Managing a high-performing team, composed of exceptionally talented individuals, presents its own unique set of challenges. The transition from being a top performer to a leader requires a shift in mindset and skills. David McClelland's three human motivators – Achievement, Affiliation, and Power – offer valuable insights into effective management. By harnessing these motivators in a balanced way, leaders can guide their teams toward success. Achieving greatness together is the ultimate goal, where the spotlight shines on the entire team's accomplishments, not just individual achievements. Building friendly and open relationships among team members fosters trust and minimizes jealousy. Lastly, the need for power, when used for the collective benefit, can help maintain authority and ensure that the team functions cohesively. In this journey of leadership, remember that effective management means empowering others to reach their full potential, which ultimately leads to the group's success.

Tomorrow, we'll dive into the art of self-assessment, using motives to build powerful relationships, the philosophy of serving others first, and overcoming challenges in managing high-performing teams.

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