Managing Precocious Talent!

November 7, 2013

I have just witnessed Sebastian Vettel win his 11th Grand Prix of the 2013 Formula One season in Abu Dhabi and celebrate by performing doughnuts in front of the grandstands just one week after he was fined $20,000 for doing the same thing after the Indian Grand Prix.

It is a spectator sport and personally I love to see the outpouring of emotion. We need characters not sterile automatons!

During the season Vettel has consistently and blatantly disobeyed team orders on a regular basis. He only gets away with it because he is clearly the fastest driver in the world. My question is how do you manage such precocious talent in business?

I have recently seen a young man with exceptional natural ability land his dream job and lose it in less than two months as he couldn’t draw a line between work and play! He hadn’t been in the job long enough to prove he was worth more than the disruption he caused. Young people rarely get fired because they couldn’t do the job they were employed to do, they get fired for discipline breaches like time keeping, poor attitude and abuse of company equipment.

I work with a young and ambitious manager at a major UK business responsible for a £60M division. He breaks lots of rules but gets the job done. No one can doubt his commitment to the company or his professionalism. His HR director even commented to me smiling “He gets away with murder”, so how come he is still in post?

The answer is simple, he knows which rules to break and just how much he can break them. He actually describes it as ‘stretching the guidelines’. Rather than be constantly ‘clipping his wings’ his manager encourages his actions despite the fact that he is fairly cautious in nature himself.

Staff with precocious talent are always risk takers but they stand out from the normal as their risks nearly always come off. They make educated decisions and through bloody mindedness and sheer determination they make them work.

The manager I mention above is being sponsored by his company to do an MBA as they think the exposure to peers from other businesses will help ‘calm him’. I have told them to expect the opposite, he will just make even better and bigger (and more educated) gambles!

Like most things in business they key word is ‘balance’. A loose cannon is definitely a dangerous employee but a pioneering game changer is more than welcome. A party animal that celebrates their business successes outlandishly but without bringing themselves or the business into disrepute should not be penalised.

Using Pareto Law I can tell you that 80% of your employee issues will come from 20% of your staff. Weigh up whether each challenging staff member is a cost effective resource and if the decision is no then manage them to conform or manage them out. By their very nature troublesome staff are easy to remove as they keep breaking rules!

More doughnuts please!

Many thanks

Stuart Allen

Trainer & Consultant at MTD Training

(Image by Samarttiw at

Back To Blog Home