Every boss wants her employees to perform at a high level. High performance means good results and that looks good on a manager’s record. If you’re a manager who wants to progress, your best bet is a high-performing staff.

But how do you achieve this? Some managers seem to have a natural knack for inspiring and motivating. The rest of us? Well, we could use a little help. It’s not hard, though, if you know the best ways to get more out of your employees. Here are 5 things you can do:

1. Recognize Talents

Not everyone has the same skill sets and the same talents. Lots of things can be learned, but start by focusing on the talents and skills your employees already have. If Jane is naturally inclined towards numbers and John can sell ice in a blizzard, then for goodness’ sake, don’t assign John the monthly report and Jane the client relations tasks. Put them where they will do the best. Yes, you can cross train them to eventually tackle both tasks, but start out by playing to their strengths.

2. Don’t Set Unrealistic Time Demands

People have lives outside of work. If you expect your staff to answer every email that comes in at 10:30 at night, they’ll do it, but it won’t reflect their best performance. Let them have their nights and weekends free. Don’t expect people to respond immediately after hours. Expect hard work during business hour — but hard play after.

3. Reward and Praise Appropriately

We all know about how worthless it is to give every kid a trophy and not keep score at a game because it’s “just for fun!” When you applaud every small thing your employees do, eventually they start thinking they need praise just for turning their computers on properly. Instead of showering praise at every turn, you’ve got to give it appropriately. When Jane does a bang up job on the monthly reports, publicly praise her. When she’s simply doing the exact same thing she’s done every month for the past 14 months say “thanks,” but without gushing.

When someone gives an average performance, they don’t get praise. That’s their job. When they do a fabulous job, they get praise. It trains your employees to aim towards the fabulous.

4. Set the Example

If you’re lazy and whiny, guess what? Your workers will be lazy and whiny. If you’re a hard worker, your employees will follow your lead. Don’t sit on your behind and expect great things from your staff.

5. Pay Above Average — But Don’t Go Nuts

It seems like everyone would work even harder if they were paid a minimum wage of $200,000 a year. But the truth is, when you pay someone far above their market rate, they not only become entitled, they never move on. Pay well, but for a job with a market value of $45,000, think about paying $47,000 — not $65,000. Give good raises, but stay within a reasonable salary range. You want people to feel valued, but not that they have golden handcuffs on. Make pay match performance. Your high performer gets the bump in salary, not your low performer. When you pay the high performer and the low performer the same amount, the low performer has no incentive to improve and the high performer grows sullen and resentful. Not the best for performance.

Keep these strategies in mind and you can turn a mediocre staff into a great one.

ABOUT Suzanne Lucas

Avatar photoSuzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers. She now writes about Human Resources and Business for a number of different publications.