Top talent can be frustrating

The leadership team of the not-for-profit I lead is meeting with our highly committed top talent. These meetings have made me realize how top talent might be frustrating to some leaders.

Surprisingly, talented employees/volunteers may be more frustrating than average ones.

Old ways aren’t good enough for top talent. They want improvement and innovation.


Why is improvement frustrating? It means work. It means change.

Frustrated lazy leaders say no to improvements and innovations.

Additionally, top talent can frustrate leaders because they have hair-brained ideas. Their ideas aren’t always aligned with organizational vision and mission. Why does top talent come up with unaligned ideas? Leadership may not have clearly communicated mission, vision, objectives, and strategy.

Frustrated inept leaders are forced to say no because they haven’t clearly communicated.

Another reason leaders say no to top talent is because leadership is over-worked and over-whelmed.  There’s no room for new approaches and innovations.

Frustrated over-worked leaders say no because one more thing will break the camel’s back.

Results of saying no:

Lazy, inept, or over-worked leaders de-motivate top talent and solidify the status quo. They may unintentionally create stagnation.

Before saying no:

  1. Ask if you are seeking your own comfort
  2. Ask if you’ve clearly communicated mission, vision, objectives, and strategy
  3. Ask if you really want to throw cold water on top talent

When saying no:

  1. Take responsibility for poor communication. Say something like, “I haven’t clearly communicated our current strategic objectives.”
  2. Ask questions and give explanations
  3. Honor passion
  4. Saying, “At this time…” seems to soften the blow

You have talented people on your team. They can be frustrating. I’m suggesting you find ways to say yes as frequently as possible.


What tips can you offer for managing top talent?

How do you say no to people who have passion and ideas?