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


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

Show Comments Hide Comments


Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
By submitting your email address, you agree to receive marketing emails from Inman.
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
Log in
If you created your account with Google or Facebook
Don't have an account?
Forgot your password?
No Problem

Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click "Reset Password". You will receive additional instructions via email.

Forgot your username? If so please contact customer support at (510) 658-9252

Password Reset Confirmation

Password Reset Instructions have been sent to

Subscribe to The Weekender
Get the week's leading headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Top headlines from around the real estate industry. Breaking news as it happens.
15 stories covering tech, special reports, video and opinion.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
It looks like you’re already a Select Member!
To subscribe to exclusive newsletters, visit your email preferences in the account settings.
Up-to-the-minute news and interviews in your inbox, ticket discounts for Inman events and more
1-Step CheckoutPay with a credit card
By continuing, you agree to Inman’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

You will be charged . Your subscription will automatically renew for on . For more details on our payment terms and how to cancel, click here.

Interested in a group subscription?
Finish setting up your subscription