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Management Case Study – You Manage a Superstar Who Acts like a Diva … What do you do?

2011-08-05You may remember last time we offered a management case study. A top performer consistently comes late to staff meetings. What should you do? Here are our winning submissions.

Derik B. Bergman, Sales Manager, San Diego Harley-Davidson

This is a problem that should be dealt with immediately and taken very seriously.  It does not matter if the diva is selling 30-40 bikes, they should not have any special privileges.  They are to be held accountable for their actions just like everyone else on the staff.  If the diva is allowed to be late, takes long lunches, is sloppy with paperwork, etc. it will create “disturbance in the force” and other members of the staff will be less willing to assist with deliveries/walk arounds et al.  Divas have the type of personality that requires a strong sales manager presence to ensure that store policy and procedures are adhered to.  Taking the diva aside and let them know that their conduct is detrimental to the staff and will not be tolerated no matters the sales numbers, works!

Amy Dockter, Business Manager, Stutsman Harley Davidson

I would have given him a verbal warning at 3x late and written him up on the fourth.  3 strikes and you’re out.  It doesn’t matter how many he bikes he sells, he’s being disrespectful to the manager and his fellow teammates and to the dealership itself.  Only showing he thinks (he’s better than everyone else).

On the other hand, if he is constantly month after month doing an outstanding job, if he sold 2 or 3 bikes in a day, he can go home early if everything is taken care and customers are happy.

Jane Magee-Vick, Goe Harley-Davidson

To Diva…..You are doing great selling 20 units a month.  Just as important, I really need you at the Monday morning staff meeting on time.  You need to share some of your savvy with Rod and Mike.  I know you can mentor both of them.  It is a win, win.  You sharing with them is important for your personal growth.  Out of respect for our entire group, it is not acceptable that we have to start our meetings late waiting for you to show up.  You are part of a team, let’s be known as the best all around sales group.   Agree?

Lyndon Abell, Patriot Harley-Davidson

Let’s call the superstar Jim. As soon as the Staff meeting is over I would ask Jim to come talk to me.

Initial Word Tracks: Jim, you are doing a great job selling bikes and I appreciate it.

That said, you were late this morning and you are late regularly; obviously that is a problem as it makes you look bad, both to me and the other two members of the sales team.

If, somewhere down the road you have a desire to be in a leadership position, either here or somewhere else, that will get in your way.

Presumably Jim would either tell me (1) he was going to turn over a new leaf, or (2) he didn’t care about looking bad to the other two losers; he is paid to sell bikes and nothing more and he is knockin’ the cover off the ball. If 1; I would council him with strategies that a chronically late person can use to be on time regularly. I would ask him for appropriate penalties he would face if he were late and try to come to an appropriate agreement. The key is that he now agrees that it is a problem and agrees with the penalty if he fails.

If 2; I would first try to turn him around and help him understand the importance of leadership and team and the benefits to him … but if I failed …I would tell him that I did not want him to look bad to the team and that I was also unwilling to lose my #1 superstar by getting into a life threatening tussle over being on time for a meeting. Therefore, I would institute a new policy that gives the #1 sales person a free pass to be late for the meeting whenever they like but that anyone else who is late must pay a penalty (something that rewards the other two sales folks- like making the warehouse runs for them or getting lunch, etc).

Probably the folks who are paying attention in the sales meeting will pass Jim someday and at that point Jim will be a bit less Diva like…

Mark’s thoughts:

  • Just what kind of signals could you possibly be sending out as a manager that would make this person think that coming late to a staff meeting is OK? It’s not. Don’t act like it is.
  • Do your staff meetings stink? Do they hold value, do you run them well. Many don’t. Do your staff meetings improve your people condition? If not change them.
  • Seek advice from a trusted advisor. Mentoring conversations are good.
  • Find out if there is a valid reason for the tardiness (child care change, etc), if so see if group would be willing to adjust meeting time. It’s not a sign of weakness, others will see as you being reasonable, and that you might be reasonable with them.
  • If it’s just because the person wants to be a diva, tell them it’s not acceptable.
  • Always have a pool of talent to draw from. Just as a salesperson gets nervous when he’s only got one prospect, the reason many managers cave in to diva-like behavior is they think they won’t be able to replace their superstar.

Managing people is tough. That’s why there are managers. If it were easy someone else would have done it.

Great submissions thank you; next time more management fun.