Hiring Trap: We Only Hire Rock Stars

Thanks to George Dinwiddie, who pointed me to the hashtag #FiveWordTechHorrors. I have been enjoying that stream.  I found “We Only Hire Rock Stars” at some point. I realized I had not written about a common hiring trap in a very long time.

Yes, you should hire “stars.” They have to be stars who fit with the team. Rock stars who are experts who don't fit with the team? They will not help you. They will splinter a team faster than you can say “lickety split.”

It's a subtle difference.

10 Replies to “Hiring Trap: We Only Hire Rock Stars”

  1. Mighty words from a silly movie called the “Mighty Ducks”…

    “A team isn’t a bunch of kids out to win. A team is something you belong to, something you feel, something you have to earn.”

  2. A friend from a wealthy Indian family has friends working around the world (the Indian diaspora). The consensus among his friends is that in England there is a lot of pressure to do a good job. In Germany there is pressure to do the best job. In the US, if you get along with people, you will do fine. The “Rockstar” concept has become a twisted version of search for excellence; and it overweights social agreeableness.

    Since “Rockstar” has such a large component of social agreeableness, it discriminates against many high achievers. The trick is to have a culture that does not need to put such a high premium on agreeableness.

    1. Richard, What an interesting perspective! BTW, I know of many hiring managers who would disagree with you about the “Rockstar” having a component of social agreeableness. I met one the other day who said, “I don’t care if he can talk to anyone, as long as he can code circles around everyone.” That was down the street from us, in Cambridge.

  3. Yes, when you truly feel that you belong, you probably are part of a team that is having astonishing results.

    I have often described the “Rockstar” as the hero mentality. We tend to treasure and reward the “heroes”. They plug the leak in the boat… But I have to often seen the hero also sink the boat with all hands on deck.

    To many times, the team becomes subservient and demotivated when a hero exists in the team. Leadership thinks the hero is great and the rest of the team is average at best and worthless in the worst. Many in management are hard pressed to understand that teams can truly be “Astonishing”, but it takes attention away from the heroes…

    I recently experienced a culture that dealt with a lot of “fires” and had several key heroes that would swoop in and put out the fires and leave with applause… I was asked to assess why they were having trouble with Agile approaches, I quickly discovered and told them that the core to my findings is that they have created a fire starter culture. When they asked to explain, it was simple, if you only reward the firefighters, then before long people begin to create fires, to be rewarded that only they can be the hero for…. As they began to reward teams, instead of individuals, the improvements were impressive…

    Rockstars, heroes, firefighters, they all have the same impact to team growth, sometimes saving, but more often than not sinking… Just my opinion, and I am usually wrong! LOL…

    1. Carl, you are right! This is why we need to move from rewarding individuals to rewarding teams. Watch for my next management myth. Coming to Stickyminds soon…

  4. Rockstars, Ninja and Gurus are nothing you want to hire. In fact, a developer should not even aspire to be one of these. Why? Because rockstars get drunk, trash the hotel room and then leave with your partner. Likewise, Ninjas come, kill and leave. And Gurus make all the other folks in the team stop thinking and follow what the Guru says. If your aim is to create a cohesive team of good performers, don’t rely on overachievers. Ultimately, more work will be done without them

    1. Oh, too funny! You are right.

      I’m always suspicious when a manager tells me he or she has a “superstar.” I really like what you say, “all the other folks in the team stop thinking.” Sometimes the other folks in the team resent the superstar, too. The manager often has no idea who is or is not a superstar. Or, a rockstar, ninja or guru.

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