SAN FRANCISCO — Having talented employees is a goal of almost every boss, but what are managers supposed to do when their top performers bring as many headaches as they do transactions?
“Real estate rockstars and rock n’ roll rockstars have a lot in common,” John Heithaus said during a discussion at Inman Connect San Francisco. “But don’t be surprised when people act like people. Rockstars are people, too. Relate to them.”

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Heithaus (middle) with Buddy Guy/Facebook

SAN FRANCISCO — Having talented employees is a goal of almost every boss, but what are managers supposed to do when their top performers bring as many headaches as they do transactions?

“Real estate rockstars and rock n’ roll rockstars have a lot in common,” John Heithaus said during a discussion at Inman Connect San Francisco. “But don’t be surprised when people act like people. Rockstars are people, too. Relate to them.”

Heithaus, who has almost 25 years of experience in real estate, now runs two record labels in Nashville and has professionally traveled with the likes of Billy Joel and Elton John. Recognizing the parallels of high-maintenance egos in both industries, he outlined four ways to deal with a problem child who produces.

Don’t micro-manage

Heithaus believes this extends to most adults, but especially for those who have shown they can perform at a high level without having to hover over their shoulders. “That’s for teenagers and entry-level employees,” he said. “Be inspirational instead. They respect energy and the way it’s delivered.”

Create a common vision and collective ego

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Heithaus and Million Dollar Listing’s Fredrik Eklund/Facebook

Referencing motivators such as George Harrison of the Beatles and Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, Heithaus stressed the need to convince employees to buy into a team vision and collective ego without hampering what makes them special.

“Nothing motivates a rockstar like a big, hairy auditions challenge,” he said. “We have no right to deprive our customers of quality service.”

A lot of that quality service, he says, is brought by the same top-performing agents that might frustrate you.

Hurt feelings don’t go away

As much as you might want to rip off a difficult employee’s head sometimes, Heithaus tries to figure out where they’re coming from first.

“You’re gong to have bouncing. You’re going to have friction. You’re going to have bruising. But no one forgets hurt feelings,” he said. “These egos, even though they’re a force of nature, they’re typically fragile and insecure, because they’re used to performing so well.”

Take quick and decisive action

If there is simply no managing a diva employee no matter how talented he or she is, Heithaus says you should cut the cord fast. “They’re good for your numbers, but they’re really bad for your culture,” he said. “Nine times out of ten, this person has to be exorcised from your organization.”

Dealing with entitlement and delusional superiority will drain your energy and hurt your overall business, but make sure to see if the egotistical actions have any sense of legitimacy.

“Ask yourself: Are their issues legitimate? Explain, listen and use emotion while talking with them,” he said. “If there’s no change, then that requires decisive action.”

Email Thomas Mitchell

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