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Holding on to the Megastars within your company

By Bruce Prins
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One of the difficult things in a company is holding on to those people that challenge you; challenge the status quo; never accept mediocrity and; bring fresh ideas and solutions to your company. They are Megastars because everything they contribute, criticize or share is always in the best interest of your company. If you know who they are, you probably trust them implicitly.

Though these Megastars can be lower in the ranks of the company or even senior managers, the first thing is to make sure they know what the company wants to achieve and were the company sees itself in the future. It is important for them to feel they are contributing and adding value and, if not, they may discover that they are not making a difference. In the case of the latter they would simply leave or become unproductive.

It is important that such employees are allowed the freedom to speak their mind or partake in discussions where their ideas and input would be most valuable. This is regardless of their reporting structure, as it may prevent them from contributing freely. If the concern is that they may overstep their boundaries, take comfort in the fact that Megastars are not very ambitious in the context of status but are more after the satisfaction of having done something of value. Employees such as them would usually be more concerned about doing the right thing than wanting to supplant others.

Careful though with Megastars because the jealousy and insecurity of other employees that do their job well or not, may hinder such employees from reaching their full potential by hiding the value they add to the company and in some cases, you may know what is going on until it is too late.

They will usually decide themselves to be part of a project or volunteer information and this is when they can be identified, especially if such information is useful and stated with a degree of humility. They often would do so in a kind and polite manner and accept any guidance or criticism from you on how they can prepare or contribute in a more productive or professional manner in future.

Once you have identified an employee such as this, take them under your wing and coach them on how they can contribute more effectively. Be careful of singling them out to others and still respect the hierarchy of the organisation in all interactions where possible. At the same time be patient with their assimilation of how things work, especially if they are more junior and also allow them to make mistakes.

Any innovative or fresh ideas from such an employee is bound to be based on an ideal or belief that something better can be done than is the case now. It would be disastrous to humiliate or shoot down such an employee, especially in front of colleagues, as they will clam up and possibly never contribute anything again in future.

It would also be important not to recognize their efforts at appropriate times and just assume that by recognizing them they are being singled out, thus it is important to balance that which is recognized with what has been achieved. It is their willingness to add value to the company that is their true value and not their position or skills.

Megastars most often have the aptitude for analysis, investigation and critical thinking and most often creativity. To be creative is to be able to take that which exists and apply it in a new and different way. While all this is good for the company, the Megastar must still be able to carry on with the job they were hired to do. This means that they probably do a lot of overtime or extra work after hours and care should be taken not to make them the ‘donkey’ of the company. In the case of the latter they can eventually suffer burn-out and stop being valuable.

They should also be developed and taken care of so that some form of a career path for them can be realized. In doing so they may become leaders or seniors within the company in future. They are the scientists of a business and are what is generally called intrapreneurs. Resources and time allocated to them can serve the company well and ensure increases in profitability or even brand equity over time.

The reasons that Megastars may leave your company would be because they have either no career prospects; are undervalued; are not appreciated; are not recognized; are not supported when things get difficult; are singled out by other employees or worse; bored out of their mind. It would therefore be advisable to keep them busy and recognize their efforts, as well as ensure some form of career improvement coupled with remunerative increases or incentives.

When dealing with Megastars you should be honest and pay attention to what they say or do and challenge them with certain objectives. In relevant cases it may even be better to let them assist or partake in making serious decisions that affect the company because it will promote ownership on their part and also show the value you have for their contributions.

Megastars are those people who differentiate one company from another and though we all can do some form of task or make decisions where needed and applicable, there are very few of us that make our company stand-out and therein provide us with a serious competitive advantage.