3 Lessons on Managing Extraordinary Talent from Andrea Bocelli

Andrea Bocelli personifies extraordinary talent. Thanks to some fortuitous circumstances last week, I got to see him in concert in Dallas. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

As I absorbed the experience of his entire performance, I found myself drawing conclusions about how extraordinary talent like Bocelli’s must be managed in the workplace. If you have identified a literal superstar, akin to a Bocelli, in your organization, you would be crazy to treat him or her like every other employee.

The three lessons include:

  • Feature the star, while surrounding him with strong talent. For Bocelli, this meant an entire orchestra, a 100-voice choir, and two extremely impressive ladies with whom he performed several duets (Katherine Jenkins, gasp!). His own voice soared, but with these accompaniments, it was accented to new heights.

Similarly, in the workplace, your superstar needs complementary team members. Who are the right players to build off of one another to achieve synergy, and yet not out-shine each another? These are tricky dynamics, especially when big egos get involved.

  • Strategically plan the superstar’s critical experiences and developmental path. In reading about Bocelli’s career trajectory in the program, I found he moved between opera and pop over the years in order to gain an unmatched world-wide following. For a singer, protecting one’s voice is paramount. He could not do it all simultaneously.

For the superstar in your company, what unique opportunities and/or experiences will help accelerate her career? What exposure does she need? What cross-functional or international opportunities can launch her into the senior executive circles at a meteoric rate? Or might a fast, but more deliberate pace make more sense?

  • Break the rules when it comes to compensation. Originally,  ticket prices for the Bocelli concert stunned me. Other people told me they tried to get tickets, and gave up because tickets were too expensive. But after attending the concert, I now understand why tickets cost so much. The tickets are worth every penny. The experience is unmatched. His talent is THAT incredible.

When you have such extraordinary talent in your organization, throw the normal compensation guidelines out the window. Identify those very few, most essential roles and individuals in your organization who are the absolute MOST critical to success, and compensate them accordingly. If you manage any of those individuals, go to bat for them every time, every year when the budget cycles come around. The logic is simple: If your organization is not willing to pay them what they are worth, plenty of other companies will instead.

If there was an empty seat at the American Airlines Center Friday night, I could not find it. Enough people paid those high ticket prices on good faith that Bocelli would deliver on his extraordinary talent. He did not disappoint.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going back to listening to his CD that I purchased after the concert . . .

Betsy Winkler is Partner at People Results. She can be reached on Twitter @BetsyWinkler1 or on email at bwinkler@www.people-results.com. Sign up to receive her and her colleagues’ blog at Current.