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Making the best out of a rockstar developer

Handling Promotion
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Career Path
Team processes
Toxic employee
High Performers

6 December, 2017

Joao changes a lead developer to “special projects engineer” to solve the legitimacy issue he has as lead developer.


I had an awesome developer in my team, and as the team was scaling up, he was promoted to the position of tech lead. It didn't take long before I realized that he wasn't performing well in this role. He was still inspirational, which was the main reason for offering him the leadership position, but he was not good at empowerment, building up a strategy, or discipline around processes. He had a good reputation within the organization and we did not want to lose him, as he was very valuable for the company.

Actions taken

He was undoubtedly very valuable to the team, so I decided to take a step back and see how we could make the best out of this individual. Obviously, management and leadership wasn't a good way. However, he was very respected by the team from a technical point of view, so I decided to use his technical legitimacy to promote changes, such as new processes to the team. I assigned him the position of "Special Project Engineer". He is much happier now and I have gained a key source of support among my developers.

Lessons learned

True rockstars have fans. They are respected for key skills, but might show limitations in other domains. I believe it's a manager's role to detect how to make the best out of their team members. It might not always be obvious, so be creative!

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