But stroking can backfire. A star’s ego can be a dangerous thing.
I’ve seen talented young people promoted too quickly and their ambition spin out of control. I’ve seen smart, capable individuals come to believe they are so indispensable that they should not be bound by anything, including the company’s values.
Stars can become monsters if you let them.
That’s why someone has to be on the lookout, namely the star’s boss, with support from HR. This job cannot fall through the cracks. The minute a star seems to be getting arrogant or out of control, someone has to call the person in to have a candid conversation about values and behaviors. You can never be afraid of your stars; they can’t hold a company hostage.
Now, sometimes stars surprise you and up and leave. That can be a defining moment. Ideally, the star will be replaced within eight hours. That’s right, eight hours. This immediate reaction sends the message to the organization that no one is indispensable. It shouts out that no single individual is bigger than the company.
The only way to be able to replace a star swiftly is to have great people on your bench. That’s where good evaluation systems come in, in particular, career development planning. That process can surface one or two in-house candidates to replace any star who departs.
Just don’t wait until the star leaves to start the replacement process. By then it’s too late to make the point.