2016-02-09

The challenges of managing superstars

Bruce Tulgan

You want a whole team of superstars. In a free market, you get what you can negotiate. As the manager, you do have the discretion and resources to differentiate those superstars the way they deserve to be recognized and rewarded. If every condition of employment — not just pay, but schedule, duration of employment, location, assignments, and so on — is on the table, your negotiating position as a manager is stronger, not weaker.


Invest in your Superstars in every way you possibly can. That means your time and every training, development, and stretch-assignment opportunities you can muster, not to mention the best resources of every sort. Pay the superstars what they are worth, especially when they go the extra mile, even if it is more than their counterparts who produce less. Be flexible about where or when those superstars work, in most cases, as long as they get the job done very well and ahead of schedule.

  • Whatever you are doing to be flexible and generous to retain your good employees, you need to be much more flexible and generous to keep your great employees engaged, motivated, and committed. When favoring superstars, consider:
  • Whatever one-on-one time you give to your good employees, spend more time with your superstars and prepare for that time like you are preparing for a meeting with your boss’s boss. Make sure your one-on-ones with superstars are a great use of everybody’s time.
  • However your good employees are assigned to work with vendors, customers, coworkers, subordinates, and managers, give your great employees first choice in relationship opportunities at work
  • However tasks and responsibilities are assigned to good employees, give your great employees first choice. Give the great ones first choice on any special projects or choice assignments.
  • Whatever training opportunities are being made available to good employees, offer the best training resources to the best people first.
  • Whatever you are you paying your good employees, pay your great ones more. Consider giving them more in base pay and benefits. Definitely give them more bonus money contingent on clear performance benchmarks tied directly to concrete actions they can control.
  • Whatever kind of scheduling flexibility are you providing for your good employees, give your great ones the best schedules, and give them more control over when they work.
  • However good employees are assigned to work locations or work spaces and travel, give the best people the first choice of location, work space, and travel.

The more you are able to help the superstars customize their roles, work conditions, and ability to get paid, the longer you will keep them engaged, motivated, and committed. You can be sure that the superstar is thrilled at the prospect of building the next stage of her career. The only question is will the superstar be thrilled to do that on this team here reporting to you. Do you have what it takes to continue leading this superstar?


ABOUT THE AUTHORBruce Tulgan is an adviser to business leaders all over the world and a sought-after keynote speaker and seminar leader. He is the founder and CEO of RainmakerThinking, Inc., a management research and training firm, as well as RainmakerThinking.Training, an online training company. Bruce is the best-selling author of numerous books including Not Everyone Gets a Trophy (Revised & Updated, 2016), Bridging the Soft Skills Gap (2015), The 27 Challenges Managers Face (2014), , and It’s Okay to be the Boss (2007). He has written for the New York Times, the Harvard Business Review, HR Magazine, Training Magazine, and the Huffington Post. Bruce can be reached by e-mail at brucet@rainmakerthinking.com, you can follow him on Twitter @BruceTulgan, or visit his website www.rainmakerthinking.com.

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