Three Tips for Managing Superstars

Posted on October 11, 2011.

If you’re really lucky, you have at least one top tier, high performer on your team. And in case you forget how fantastic they are, they’ll often remind you.  As a manager, I had more than one superstar tell me I should make less than them because they really drove my success.  These high maintenance people are often much harder to deal with than your poor performers.  So how do you manage these confident, highly skilled superstars?  Here are three tips that should help:

  1. Let them into your “circle of trust”.  Superstars love to have knowledge that others do not. The reality is that most of your staff doesn’t really care about how certain policies or mandates were developed. But superstars don’t care so much what the information is as long as they know they are “in the know”.   Of course you can trust them. They’re not going to share anything with anyone other than another superstar.
  2. Seek their advice. The reality is that your superstars often have great ideas that can help the whole team exceed.  Let them help you with strategic planning or bounce some of your own ideas off of them.  They enjoy having input into key decisions and it feeds the ever-hungry ego all superstars possess.
  3. Be honest about expectations. Of course they expect to make the most money, get the most recognition and receive the highest rewards.  But every company has limits and as a manager you can’t sacrifice fairness to satisfy one person.  Tell the truth about what they can realisticallyexpect in the way of salary and bonus.  Explain that you will do what you can to make sure they receive the right recognition. Try to put them on a key task force with senior level exposure. But don’t let them expect more than you can deliver. 

Superstars can be the best and the hardest people to manage. You love the results they produce but it’s often at a high cost to your peace of mind.  But keeping them in the know, seeking their advice and setting realistic expectations can make your life a lot better.

What tips do you have for managing your superstars?