Volume 36, Issue 5, May 2001

Personnel Perusals

Falling Stars
When Star Performers Don't Follow the Rules

Itís always great to have a superstar on your teamóone who out-produces everyone else and can offer encouragement and serve as an example for others. But what happens when your star performer decides that he is too good to be held to the same standards as everyone else and it begins to affect the team?

The reality is that a company is not built around a superstar; it is built around those who produce the numbers consistently, who follow the system, who make things happen for the good of the company. We all need superstars, but not those who fail to call in after each job, donít get their paperwork in on time or are late for work or meetings consistently.


Understanding the Superstar

What drives such behavior? Itís often not what it seems. Far from feeling better than everyone else, the superstar is frequently very insecure in his role. The employee may be successful (letís say in sales) because he has a territory in which the conditions for selling are ideal and he gets the business in spite of himself. (We should all be so lucky!) Or, he may have acquired superstardom quite by accident, having succeeded by over-compensating for a physical impairment or other difficulty. The employee uses unbecoming behavior as a way of getting attention to compensate for his lack of self confidence or physical normalcy. Nevertheless, his behavior is causing problems and itís time to do something about it. But what?

Dealing with Superstar Behavior
First, spend some time with your star (work or ride with him) and find out whatís driving the behavior. Get behind the bravado and determine the cause of his unwillingness to follow the rules. Help him understand what happens when he doesnít live up to company expectations and how it affects his co-workers and customers. Communicate to the employee what will happen if such behavior continues.

Second, enlist your star to help you motivate other employees to produce as well. Ask him to put together a few ideas for a contest, or a company social event that will bring everyone together as a team. Ask the employee to make a short presentation at the next meeting, or assign some responsibility for building morale. The idea here is to make the employee part of the planning process for the success of the entire team.

Third, be careful not to destroy his initiative. Almost every successful person in business (Bill Gates, Ross Perot, Donald Trump, etc.) has some maverick in him. Clamping down too hard and too fast could extinguish that spark and do more harm than good.

Donít Make Mistakes
Many employers believe that promoting an effective (i.e., star) salesperson to sales manager is just what the sales team needs. They donít stop to consider that removing a salesperson from his comfort zone could destroy a delicate balance and make him a very ineffective manager. Great salespeople donít necessarily make good managers. Even a star salesperson may be unwilling to accept the burden of responsibility for the performance of others.

Another mistaken theory is putting the best salespeople in the worst territory. All that will get you is fewer sales and discouraged salespeople. Put your best salespeople in your best territory and work it for all itís worth!

If All Else Fails

If you have a star performer that causes disharmony in the overall team and you, as the leader, do not take the appropriate action, it will affect your leadership with the rest of the team, and ultimately cause results to diminish. If you have a star that canít fit in the framework of your organization, you have no choice but to replace him. But, I encourage you to try everything you can beforehand to avoid this drastic step. 



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