Everyone wants to hire a rockstar…sorry, a RRRROCKSTAR!
Okie-dokie…let’s look at a few rockstars and ask them a few interview questions:
Years ago, Ozzy Osbourne (of Black Sabbath fame although my younger readers might know him more from his family’s MTV series) showed up at a meeting at CBS Records’ Los Angeles office to embark on his solo career. His wife Sharon sensed that the executives weren’t keen on Osbourne so she had Ozzy show up at the meeting with a few live doves in his pockets and with the plan of releasing them into the air at an opportune time. Instead, Osbourne took one of the doves out of his pocket and bit its head off as the executives screamed in horror (imagine the blood spurting out of the bird’s neck stump).
Ozzy, you have quite an impressive background in generating massive amounts of revenue but your behavior is not the kind that necessarily blends with our corporate culture. Can you explain your management style and how biting the head off a dove fits in with this style? Also, can you give me an example of how you used your dove technique in managing difficult associates?
The late (what a surprise) Keith Moon, drummer of The Who (one of my favorite bands of all time) was one of the first rockstars to throw some – or all – of his instruments around stage. Guitarist Pete Townshend soon followed by smashing his Stratocaster to smithereens, and pretty soon a trend was born.
Mr. Moon, while your musical abilities are unquestionably superlative and your rhythm unparalleled, we’re concerned that if we hire you, every successful project you complete will require us to buy you a new computer, desk, lamp, and trash can. Can you assure us that you won’t continue your smashing ways if we hire you?
Rockstars are known to make crazy demands for everything from food to the color of their dressing rooms. To label most rockstars as high maintenance is like making the outlandish statement that the sky is blue. I’ve read where before a big show, Mariah Carey requires a box of bendy straws and Captain Crunch cereal and J-Lo needs a white room with white flowers and white curtains – not eggshell or linen but pure white.
Mariah, we’re pleased that you’ve essentially accepted the monetary portion of our offer to join us as our Chief Diva Officer but we’re concerned about the changes you made to the employment agreement particularly the paragraph where you state that you will only work every fourth business day and require the receptionist to roll out a red carpet upon your arrival while, and I quote, “the building’s cleaning crew will line up on both sides of the red carpet in a genuflecting position while holding their brooms like sabers in a V-position crossing over said red carpet.” We might have a problem with this…
We’re all too familiar with Lady Gaga In the New York City area; seems as if every paper has been printed with her on the front page in various stages of drunkenness, undress, and playing with her middle finger. Last baseball season, Gaga showed up at the New York Mets game in June wearing a leather jacket over a bikini. But when spotted by fans and photographers, she threw a hissy fit which required Mets’ officials to escort her into Jerry Seinfeld’s luxury box, where she proceeded to flip the fans the bird – over and over again.
Lady, as you know, we conduct an extensive reference check prior to receiving an offer. Given that we believe in honesty as a corporate policy, will our reference checking vendor uncover any pictures, videos, stories or any otherwise “inappropriate behavior” that might negatively impact the positive image of our company held by our most ardent customers?
For quite some time, the then-28-year-old Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page had a long-running affair with a 14-year-old groupie; everyone knew about it but no one did anything to dissuade Mr. Page from continuing the obviously illegal and immoral relationship.
Mr. Page, the Huntington School District is pleased that you’ll be joining our staff as a new music teacher in our middle school. It is clear you have great enthusiasm for teaching boys and girls to appreciate music…
George Michael needed more than “Faith” to beat (sorry, poor word choice) his 1998 arrest for “engaging in a lewd act” in a public restroom; find the details yourself but I can assure you that no one played a father figure.
George, as you know this is a hands-on position and I’m concerned that your experience has been substantially more strategic. What do you think?
Finally, the late Freddie Mercury held a unique launch party for his 1978 album Jazz which included “naked hermaphrodite dwarves serving cocaine from trays strapped to their heads, transsexual strippers, naked dancers in bamboo cages, nude models wrestling in baths filled with raw liver and Samoan women smoking cigarettes with their genitals.”
I can’t even begin to think of a question I might have used…
Rockstars regularly exhibit bizarre behaviors, destroy things, are high maintenance, and consume mass quantities of alcohol and other controlled substances.
Do you really want to hire a rockstar?
And for more, real life CEO examples, try this: http://www.innovationamerica.us/index.php/innovation-daily/9150-random-acts-of-naughtiness
I’m with you, Steve. Keep the Rockstars and give me great team players, please!!
It is not unusual for companies to believe (that means HR and hiring managers) that simply hiring “the best” and placing them together guarantees success.
If you want a team that gives you human synergy – that is, they are more creative, productive, or whatever you need to get business done – you need people who are team players. These people will happily leave their sequined hot pants in the closet and will prefer to eat the cookies someone brought into the office rather than chomp bat guts.
If you want to identify the good team players, you need the completely new way to predict how people will perform on a team.
Fortunately, Steve can tell you all about it if you ask him nicely. Because, of course, I am assuming that YOU are a great team player.
I like “team players” who aren’t fearful of going a bit renegade (bc it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission) with a healthy dose of entrepreneur in them…
Entrepreneurial and renegade behaviors are Teaming Characteristics – great in some jobs, bad in others. Oh dear – I guess that explains why I was such a bad hire for the Rigid ‘rockstars-in-their-own-minds’ that I worked for in the past…
It’s all about the fit.
If they’re teaming characteristics then why do so many recruiting and HR experts view these as negatives?
If your recruiting order calls for independent, creative, entrepreneurial – but what you know they REALLY want is someone who won’t be a threat, won’t challenge you, and will, in the end, bring nothing innovative to the table that could cause dreaded ‘change’, you are a recruiter in a serious bind.
The fact is, Steve, that renegade entrepreneurial types are more welcome in the fast growth, innovation, entrepreneur space than in some large companies. And, sometimes it is HR – or even recruiting – that is afraid of risk.
And, of course, it is precisely because of your renegade, entrepreneural style that is why we love you.
All of the FMLA, Employee assistance and rehab is not worth dealing with the so called rockstar. They also tend to flame out fast or move on…thank God. I don’t place “talent” or rockstars. I place good solid, smart people who understand what work is and that work life balance means having a good job with the opportunity to provide a good life for themselves and their families. When i hear, “ego, party of one”. Color me gone, the “talent Acquisition” folks can have the rockstars.
I wonder – if “Talent Acquisition” were simply “Recruiting” would they recruit people rather than rockstars? Do you think that TA folks up the ante so they can recruit to the level of their job title?
Rrrrockstars and the behavior they generally exhibit are tolerated largely by sales organizations. However, the more their ego is fed with special treatment the more they want. It’s good for a while until the morale on the rest of the team is destroyed and another company recruits Ozzy out from under you with the lure of a Corvette and you’re left backpedaling to deal with hysteria while you fill the void and swallow bile to meet numbers. – Ex Time Share Resort Sales Manager
Swallow bile???? Ick…but I think rrrrockstars have done this too.
It wasn’t that long ago hiring managers were saying, “I want a candidate who walks on water or find me that needle in the haystack.” Now it’s ‘rockstar.’ I wonder what the next overused terminology will be? And yes, rockstars eventually leave the team, once they’ve made a name for themselves they feel the need to experience their talents on their own. Good interview question to ask Steven Tyler is how that worked out for him.
One more thing…just as today’s Gen Y is more spoiled than the babyboomers – todays “so called” rock stars are way more spoiled than the rock stars of yesterday. Brittany Spears (not sure if you could call her a rock star or media whore) demands her hotel room be filled with a certain color of M&M’s and cases of Coke.
I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with 2 of these rockstar types lately. Both have left me wishing we would have never met.
Any specifics Jerry? Who labelled them as rockstars? What behaviors made them unsavory?
Fabulous post Steve. Appreciate the valuable wisdom.
Rock stars in the music/talent world often pay a heavy price when not careful about taking periodic self-assessments ;-)
You give us much to think about. Talk about timing – ey? Rock stars in the workplace are a very different genre indeed – often they are neither famous nor wealthy. They teach, inspire, share freely and bring their unique personality to the mix. We call them insightful “people”…some real life rock stars even dare to be under the radar. Imagine that.
PS: You are one in my book. Thanks for rocking out on a daily basis and being a true workplace + social community player.
Imagine a Rockstar hidden from view? Do you think they even read ads that are looking for rockstars? Incidentally if someone is that good, they won’t refer to themselves as a rockstar! Those who do are probably divas…
I am not going to disagree with the warnings against hiring rock stars. (though they do have a drive and motivation…maybe not the type that translates into longer term, mutually beneficial relationships). I will however, chime in, with the perspective that candidates need to be able to talk about their achievements and management style and team building abilities. Most of the job seekers I encounter are unable to do this convincingly.
Could it be that many, if not all, of the 99ers seem to have misplaced their ability to talk about their achievements in ways that a future employer can appreciate? Or are they unwilling to relocate, or is there some other obstacle that plaques them?
There has to be some solution to getting more people back to work…what’s the answer?
Good point Hannah Montana…I don’t believe people misplace their ability to speak about themselves (Lord knows professional athletes and rockstars are at ease with speaking about themselves in the third person.
Saying “We” is playing it safe; if you say “I” did this or that, then you are opening yourself up to an “attack” by someone who takes your opposite point of view. “We” spreads out the blame.
Yet business is about what have you done – and we don;t prepare people early enough with the right type of business communication training. Perhaps Career Services needs to re-brand itself as a course and a field trip for all freshmen students. If we can get “them” young enough we can help members of the future workforce understand and appreciate the difference between “We” and “I” and that, yes, there is an “I” in “team.”
Wait… why can’t a rockstar be a team player? Keith Moon certainly wasn’t the only rock star member of The Who; nor were any of their albums the work of one. I have yet to meet a non-rockstar “team-player” who ever did anything without first asking for permission. No thanks! For me, a rockstar diva is ideal. Lots of talent, and an ego that can be more easily satiated with accolades than with money.
James, darn right a rockstar can be a team player – never said they couldn’t. Managing a diverse team, however, isn’t easy and therein lies the problem – on-going training and coaching for managers.
Hiring a rock star can be very beneficial to an organization without enough leaders…or to those organizations who need someone to turn up the volume to eleven.
Can’t hear you Rothberg – it’s too loud where I am…
Wow….I now loathe the t-shirt I wore in High School:
I ain’t got a girlfriend
I ain’t got a dog
All I’ve got is Rock-n-Roll
Let it go Dennis…
There are some great examples of some really outlandish, ridiculous behavior here. However, as a big music fan, I am more concerned about something else I see among rockstars; a complete lack of humility and the concept that WE (fans, customers, whatever) are the reason why they are where they are.
I saw a YouTube video where Lauryn Hill (I think it is safe to say that she is a ‘has been’ at this point), came on stage after midnight for a show that was suppossed to start at 8pm on a weeknight. No opening act; and not a huge venue (obviously). When people started booing her, she had the nerve to admonish them, saying “I think I’m worth the wait” and “You all don’t understand…there’s a lot that goes on to bring this to you.” Oh please! If those people didn’t buy those tickets in the first place, you woulnd’t be eating!
Coming from a customer service background, I wouldn’t dare say that the customer is always right; but I WILL say that you need to appreciate your customers. That they are spending money on you, and not somewhere else. Everyone in the organization should understand that. THAT the type of people that you should have on your team!
Thx for the comment Rishona…my take is that many rockstars are coddled by their handlers and insulated from their responsibilities. An ego unchecked is a dangerous weapon!
I want to recruit smart, innovative, responsible, entrepreneurial people but only if I’ve planned out their assimilation into the existing team and culture. Let them behave badly on their own time..
I don’t know… I see where you’re coming from, but rock stars change the world and from that perspective, I aspire to be one and be called one in my field.
Maybe it’s all that Teach for America pressure to constantly be a change agent in my professional endeavors, but when I look at the last ten years of education reform, it’s the “rock stars” who made things move forward and changed the game for the better, even if there was some destruction left in their wake.
But don’t worry, I’ll never use the term to describe you again- even if I meant it as a compliment. :)
You’re a diva
A question was posted over at Quora as to whether referring to the terms Ninja or rockstar in a job posting were patronizing. The following was one of the answers which i found rather funny. Hope u find it funny as well;
“These terms should only be used if one is looking to hire an actual ninja or an actual rock star. Consider: would you like your new hire to play loud music, disappear for long periods of time, have substance abuse problems, and be constantly surrounded by infinite beauties of questionable moral character? Then by all means, advertise for a rock star. Are you seeking someone who will move silently through your office, killing suddenly and without mercy, and then fading into the shadows? A ninja is your man.”
I prefer hiring Ninjas because they have really cool swords and frankly if I have a choice between listening to a babbling and incoherent Rockstar or a Japanese dialect of a Ninja, I’ll choose the Ninja every time.
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Truer words were never spoken! Excellent post, Steve. Many times, the “rock stars” demand so much that they take away resources from the rest of the team and impact the overall performance of the group. I’d sure as heck rather have a strong, steady team of productive workers than a ego-maniacal rock star who puts tons of demands on fellow employees which ends up demoralizing everyone.