Up Your Leadership Game: How to Catch and Cultivate a Rising Star

Some employees show star potential early, sometimes even before they're hired. In this piece, we look at how to help these candidates continue their upward trajectory as employees—so they can shine brightly for your business.

It Starts With the Resume

You're scrolling through resumes and get a special feeling about one of them. It starts with intuitive formatting and a tight copy that reflects all the right attributes. It makes resume writing look easy when compared to the others.

Good resumes don't happen by accident. So, one that stands out is the first indication you may be onto something. While this isn't a piece on resume writing, it's a reminder to trust your instincts when reviewing them.

First Day on the Job

Once the offer is accepted, you'll likely find that the first day on the job starts well before the official first day of work. Most rising stars will immediately throw themselves into the mix to the extent they have access to the people and tools they'll be working with.

Until they're official, your job is to be encouraging by laying a foundation for success once day one arrives. This means taking care of a litany of onboarding tasks beforehand that may include:

  • Making sure your rising start has the laptop, desktop, or devices necessary for the role.
  • Ensuring network access and connections are ready when needed.
  • Letting coworkers and management know the rising star's roles and responsibilities.

While these tasks may seem mundane, countless numbers of rising stars have been sidetracked by lapses on this front. There's nothing more demoralizing than arriving at your new job and finding a yellow pad of paper where the new computer on back order was supposed to be.

Teaming Up

Rising stars are team players, and one of the most important things you can do to help them is to identify others in the organization that pairs well as teammates, mentors, or both. Some guidelines for doing so include:

  • Disregarding barriers like age group or department to create diverse learning experiences.
  • Supplementing traditional team-building opportunities with unconventional ones.
  • Observing your rising star's work patterns and habits and leveraging them for success.

Consider these activities an investment not only in the star you're cultivating but in the people they will lead as they work their way up through the organization. Remember that their success will breed others which might cultivate the next generation of overachievers.

Nip Disillusionment In the Bud

There may be times your rising star begins to lose luster due to factors beyond their control. They may encounter a problematic vendor or a challenge that seems impossible.

Even more demoralizing, they may feel that they're not being supported or that the direction of the department or company may not align with theirs. Here's how to recognize when signs of disillusionment may be kicking in:

  • Hold regular one-on-ones to freely encourage dialogue and assess 'where the candidate is at.'
  • Ask the rising star's managers or peers for candid input and observations.
  • Use grassroots social events to see if and how they're engaging.

It's not always easy to assess when a rising star may have doubts about the company, the job, or their role. In terms made popular years ago, 'it takes a village' to raise a star to its apex.

There are steps you can take to assure you're helping, including making sure the correct tools, resources, and training are available to encourage personal growth. Sometimes, it simply means trusting your instincts and assigning a plum project that reinvigorates growth.

Reward Accordingly

Motivating a rising star along the path to greater heights can take many forms. While there are numerous institutionalized rewards systems available your company can access—all with their merits—don't lose sight of the personal touch.

A heartfelt 'thank you' in person can go a long way toward instilling a feeling of pride, belonging, and further encouragement. A thank you in a company-wide meeting may go even further. It's up to you to decide what works best based on what you know about the person.

Ultimately, that's what matters the most.