How to Keep Your Rock Star Employee on the Team

BY Kathy Crosett
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As a manager, you work hard to convince solid candidates to join your team. On occasion, you’ll be lucky enough to hire a rock star employee. You know the one I’m talking about. She’s willing to keep working on a problem until she solves it. He is the one who keeps coming up with creative and unusual product ideas. You want to keep this employee happy and you want to make sure your rock star doesn't upset the rest of your team. Here’s how to make that happen.

Carter Cast, a former CEO at Walmart​.com and a professor at the Kellogg School, recently talked about identifying and keeping your rock star employee. Cast describes high-​potential performers as employees who possess super associative thinking skills. In their drive to solve a problem with a unique solution, these folks will come up with many ideas. And, while they are thinking – out loud and especially during group meetings – they may step on a few toes. This kind of employee has flashes of brilliance, which can drastically improve the bottom line. Think Elon Musk and his obsession about Tesla and SpaceX. Steve Jobs and his insistence on the unique quality of Apple products is another great example.

Having a high-​potential performer on the team means extra work for you. One of the rock star’s shortcomings is her inability to slow down and listen to other employees, especially in a team setting. If your rock star is also a manager, her rush to a solution or to a new product idea may turn off or discourage other employees. She’ll need to learn how to pace her enthusiasm and encourage others to contribute their knowledge. In some cases, the 360 method of feedback, which involves allowing team members to offer honest assessment of the rock star’s work performance, can help.

While you manage how your super employee interacts with others, you also have to help her succeed. Give her projects that make a difference to the bottom line. And, hand her new challenges to develop her skills. These strategies will build her loyalty.