Richard Bistrong on the Risks of High Performers [Podcast]


By Adam Turteltaub

Fast Company recently ran an article with the headline “Research Shows High Performing Employees are More Prone to Unethical Mistakes.” It’s both an alarming and an intriguing proposition.

To understand more I spoke with Richard Bistrong, CEO of Front-Line Anti-Bribery LLC, who co-authored the article along with Ron Carucci and Dina Smith.

Why are high performers potentially so dangerous? For one, he explains, success tends to block scrutiny. People don’t like to question it and are just grateful to see so much of it. They may not think to look or not want to look too deeply.

Another challenge is that the more successful people are, the more addicted to success they may become, something Richard knows from his own experience. The challenge of being a corporate hero, he explains, is that once you earn that status, you typically don’t want to give it up and may end up going down what has been called the rabbit hole of success.

At the same time, the company may be exerting pressure on the individual to do ever more, partially because it is standard practice in business to set higher goals. But also, the company may grow disproportionately dependent on the results the high performer can generate.

Fortunately, there are several things that can be done to mitigate the risk without clipping the wings of the highflyer. For one, compliance teams should try to look at the incentive plans to both identify the risks and help mitigate them. While there, look to also include compliance measures that make it clear that it’s not just about achieving the goals, it’s also about how you achieve them.

Second, connect rewards and good performances with the company’s values and mission. This helps the high performer understand both what the rules are and why they are important.

Listen in to learn about how to get the most out of higher performers while avoiding the risk that can come with them.