How to Manage Rock Stars

Musicians at Gordon & Mona's Wedding Now that you’ve hired a rock star, what do you do? After writing about the recruiting process for rock stars, I decided to expand to a three-part series. This is the second topic on my series about rock stars.

The Rock Star Series:

Contrary to popular belief, dealing with rock stars isn’t necessarily easier than poor performers, and certainly not easier than average performers. In order to keep your rock stars productive, on your team, and still jamming out hits, you’ve got to manage them differently.

A quick word about my management style. I use what I call a talent-driven management style, adopted from books like First, Break All the Rules & Now, Discover Your Strengths, the latest management research, and my own experiences as a people manager. My techniques are biased to my particular style and may not work in all situations, though they’ve worked well for me.

Rock stars need to be managed differently
Despite what you might think, you shouldn’t manage everyone on your team in the same way, just like you shouldn’t raise all of your kids in the same way. Every individual is unique, with different motivations, working styles, and temperaments. So really, this tip is good for everyone on your team, not just the rock stars.
Rock stars need effective work environments
Those who were rock stars at previous companies may have reached that status because of the environment there. Try to replicate as much of that environment as you reasonably can, while giving them opportunities to learn how to best work in your environment.
Rock stars need interesting & challenging work
A large reason why rock stars are rock stars is because they thrive on challenging work they care about. Align them with work that matches their personal passions. Make sure you give them a steady stream of such work to keep them motivated. Grunt work may be inevitable, but be aware that rock stars are more apt to leave if they become bored because there are so many opportunities for them elsewhere.
Rock stars need to be monitored closely
You don’t want to lose any of your employees, but you especially don’t want to lose your rock stars. Check on them every so often, both from a workload standpoint and a personal standpoint. See how they’re doing and how they’re feeling. It does mean more work from you, but if they are happy with their jobs, they’ll remain productive. However, be careful not to hover over or micromanage them.
Rock stars can be used to train others
With all that knowledge & skill in their heads, why not try to spread it around? If they are willing and able to, ask your rock stars to hold workshops and seminars for the rest of your team. Knowledge sharing can be very powerful, both in building relationships, providing recognition, and increasing the productivity of others.
Rock stars need to be recognized
Most people enjoy recognition as a reward, and rock stars are no different. Asking them to hold training sessions is one way to recognize their expertise. Giving them positions of authority is another, such as team lead, planner & architect, project evangelist, etc. Awards and monetary compensation are other good methods.
Rock stars need to be inspired
Since they have so many employment options, if they are not doing something that they are passionate about, don’t feel a genuine concern for their welfare, and are not being rewarded appropriately, they will leave. You need to give them a reason to be loyal and inspire them to stay. If you can do that, you’ll have a rock solid team.

How do you manage your rock stars?

The Rock Star Series:

Author: Mike Lee

An idealistic realist, humanistic technologist & constant student.

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