The performance-attitude balance: 6 ways to manage your rock stars

sketchnote-rockstar

In a recent leadership coaching session, a client asked, “how do I manage someone whose performance is great but whose attitude is, at best, questionable? And how the hell do I give them feedback on their attitude?”

I call these individuals ‘Rock stars’ (see my sketchnote above).

And just like a rock-star, this team member can be amazing. A genius, even. They make beautiful music in the form of whatever it is they’re delivering.

They can also be a diva. Make unreasonable demands. Treat others badly.

In my experience of leading teams, this can be the most difficult of team members to coach, manage, guide, advise.  Here are my tips for working with and developing your rock stars:

  1. It starts with you. Are you certain you’re displaying the attitude that you expect your team to have? If you are, then happy days. If not, then you need to work on this. A rock star has a tendency to be smart as a whip and will spot your Achilles heel – “well, you don’t behave that way boss!”
  2. Evidence, evidence, evidence. I’ve seen too many managers shot down in flames because they’ve given feedback to a rock star but not backed it up with any concrete examples! A rock star is smart (see point number one) and are the most likely to ask, “could you give me a specific example of when I’ve done that?” Be prepared.
  3. Carry out 360-degree feedback. This builds on tip number two. If your rock star doesn’t have any people reporting in to them, then this really becomes 270-degree feedback. The ethos is the same though. Ask your rock star to identify a minimum of 3 peers and a minimum of 3 customers to answer the following questions: (i) What do I do well? (ii) What do I do less well? (iii) What should I start doing differently to be even better? Without a doubt, I have found 360-degree feedback to be a game-changer with rock stars I’ve worked with.
  4. Get them a mentor. Most rock stars are ambitious and want to do brilliantly in their career. If they don’t already have a mentor then find one for them. This should be someone much more senior, who has done well in the rock star’s chosen field and someone you know they respect. And importantly for you, it needs to be someone who displays the attitude you’re trying to cultivate in your rock star.
  5. Get them a coach. Your rock star wants to feel important. Part of this is about getting them a support team (or ‘entourage’ in rock star language). A coach will be part of that team, along with you as their manager, and their mentor. Whilst your rock star will have a clear idea of what they want to work on, it’s crucial that the coach knows what it is that you, as the manager, need focus on.
  6. Ask them to coach someone. I’ve found this really works. Rock stars have big egos and this plays to that. Coaching someone is a great way to develop key behaviours such as listening, empathy, patience, support and being constructive.

This list is by no means exhaustive. They’re based on my own experience both as a manager, as well as a coaching psychologist. If there are things you do that work, why not share them via the comments section?


Hayley Lewis is a chartered psychologist and the founder of HALO Psychology, a consultancy specialising in organisational improvement, performance and change. For more on how HALO can help you with your rock stars, check out our services.

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