Susy Roberts explains why the BBC can’t ignore ‘bad behaviour’ if it wants to avoid having to sack new Top Gear host Chris Evans

When the BBC replaced maverick Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson with Chris Evans, radio’s original enfant terrible, it was perhaps too much to hope that things would go smoothly.

Although Evans hasn’t gone on any of the drinking binges that once made him infamous, newspapers have speculated that an executive producer quit over his ‘dictatorial behaviour’, which allegedly caused the show to run behind. It will now air two weeks late, with the number of episodes cut from eight to just six.

Meanwhile, Evans himself is reported to have considered quitting the show after becoming fed up with ‘meddling’ BBC executives who don’t want to give him the same freedom as former presenter Clarkson.

Dramatic as this sounds, it’s a scenario being played out in workplaces across the country – if you hire a top performer you can expect managing them to be a challenge. And, love him or loath him, Evans is a creative genius given the success of his other shows.

So, if you’re responsible for managing a top performer, follow these tips for success:

1. Accept they’re not conventional

Top performers differ from the ‘norm’ because of exceptional qualities that typically create problems in other ways. Someone who has intelligence verging on genius might lack the emotional intelligence required to understand how their actions affect those around them, causing friction with colleagues. Innovative thinkers will often struggle to comply with rules. As a result, managers end up seeing their top performer as being ‘difficult’, rather than accepting that their traits just make it more challenging for them to conform.

2. Separate the individual from the situation

Instead of labeling the individual as being difficult, it’s far more productive to view the situation as difficult, and accept it is every bit as challenging for your top performer as it is for you. By taking the time to understand their motivations and what’s driving them to behave the way they are, you can step back from telling them ‘you’ve got to do it this way’ and start working with them to find a way to resolve the situation that also works for them.

3. Increase their self-awareness

It’s all too easy for more egotistical top performers to wind people up and create a bad atmosphere, especially when they understand all too well just how valuable they are to the organisation. Brilliant as they are, they will also need help to develop an understanding of how their behaviour is affecting others, and be encouraged to build upon their relationships.

4. Quickly resolve clashes and conflict

Bad behaviour needs to be addressed early on and not allowed to fester. If a top performer’s ability to deliver means management turns a blind eye, things will only escalate to a point where it can no longer be ignored, as illustrated by the Clarkson ‘fracas’. I’ve lost count of the number of top performers and managers I’ve worked with who swore they’d never work together again but, after being helped to see each other’s perspective before things got too bad, managed to find a way forward to create outstanding results.

Susy Roberts is founder and managing director of Hunter Roberts, the people development consultancy. She is also a fully accredited business coach and Fellow of the CIPD. www.hunterroberts.com