■ They can be very dismissive of the team implementing their ideas or
vision, which causes friction in the team
■ As they have expended so much energy in the first phase of the
project, they need to handover the project, so they can recuperate.
■ Underneath all the intellectual power can be someone who needs to
Ways to work
■ Get the Rockstar to develop relationships with the team, so they are
not dismissed as not seeing the vision when they can’t keep up.
■ Give them the freedom and intellectual stimulation - they are the
innovators in complex projects - ideal could be Project initiation, R&D
or Innovation and Disruption
■ Pair them with someone who can take the idea to delivery.
■ They don’t have the experience or talent to back up ALL of their ideas;
they usually have strength in one particular area needed in the project
■ They build strife into their interactions with everyone. The team comes
away feeling pelted with ego
■ The work may not be up to scratch; there can be an overestimation of
Ways to work
■ Remember that a Prima Donna may be starting with a position of low
self esteem, and is compensating to feel superior
■ Provide strong expectations for each piece of work and stretch goals
once they have been met; use their strengths for the good of the
■ Ignore their behaviours if it doesn’t affect the rest of the team
■ If it does affect the team, the person needs to be talked to and warned
of the consequences of their behaviour
■ Remind the individual who the customer is; their role is supporting the
customer (internal or external)
■ Work in a team made up of people with healthy egos and great skills to
balance the Prima Donna
■ Lack of compassion for themselves
■ Over sharing and annoying others
■ Taking on too much work and burning out
Ways to work
■ Set boundaries for them at work with the amount of time they work on
■ Find structured ways for them to give of themselves to others in the
■ Teach them to be a little selfish with their time and knowledge
■ Leave them to fail (only a little), so they can learn to set their own
Working with a challenging individual
■ Understand the motivations of the person in front of you
■ Rules of Engagement
■ Goals and boundaries
■ Team planning and dependencies
■ Be an active manager
■ Work with your manager/coach/mentor on how the team or
individual is led and managed
Understand their motivations
Empathy, good questioning technique and listening
■ What’s happening to the person right now?
■ How does this affect work?
■ What do they want to do?
■ Why is this happening?
Rules of Engagement
A collaborative team activity, but can be developed with an individual
■ How we work together
■ Work styles
■ Conflict resolution, and
■ Who is the ultimate decision maker
Goals and boundaries
Works with the Rules of Engagement
For each piece of work, set the expectations:
■ What the person is responsible for
■ What deliverables they need to create and when they are due
■ Support needed to do the work
■ Any dependencies
■ What don’t they do
In the project team include:
■ Are they responsible for others work
■ How will they work with other
Team planning and dependencies
■ Provides a structure for the team when working with
■ When it’s done negatively, it is a ‘group slap’; but positively - it
provides the whole group with a set of expectations, so the
one person does not feel singled out
■ If the challenging person is an equivalent or higher in the
pecking order, this provides them with expectations of their
role...in front of everyone
Be an active manager
Manager… a dirty word, we are all told we should all be leaders
■ Be someone who the team can talk to
■ Be an escalation point
■ Model behaviour
■ Shape how a team works
Work with your manager or mentor
■ Don’t pretend you can do this by yourself.
■ Dealing with difficult team members is hard - exhausting mentally,
physically and emotionally. Get support and downtime as needed.
■ Support can come in two guises:
● Peer group support - coaching through the problems with your
● Manager/mentor - to provide guidance and your point of
■ Rockstars, Prima Donnas and Mother Teresas are all
archetypes; these traits and behaviours can turn up in all of us
at different times.
■ The aim is to get the best out to people and being active
managers is the best way to do this.
■ Go forth and manage!
Change, Influence and IA at the BBC, March 2004
Beyond the Polar Bear, 2011