In my experience the "very senior" individual contributors are not managers for different reasons:
- They genuinely value technical contributions and development work over management
- There is some "flaw" in their skill set: Could be that they are a pain in the neck to work with and not team players, could be that they have a hard time self managing and organizing (likes to work on everything), could be that they have unconventional communication styles, want too much attention, etc.
The people in the first category are a huge asset and relatively easy to manage: Set fairly broad goals and metrics, make sure they understand and are aligned and then leave them alone. Meet once a week for a quick check in and/or chit chat.
The second category can be a real challenge. You need to find out what the main issue is, figure out whether they know about and/or acknowledge it, assess how it may affect the work and than come up with a management strategy around it. This need to be done on a case by case basis. If the person acknowledges the issue and genuinely wants to work on it, than you can design a plan to mentor and coach them through the process. If the person acknowledges the issue ("I really don't like meetings and e-mail") but has no interest in changing this, than you need to agree on the scope of work that's appropriate for this. A person like this can be great for writing a mind-boggling complicated device driver but is probably not great for a cross functional architecture team.
The most difficult case are the ones who won't acknowledge the issue. At that level they probably have been made aware of it multiple times in their career, but they simple disagree with the assessment or believe that's it's not important. In this case you will probably have to strongly tailor the assignments around the issue. If they are technically brilliant, you can still get a lot of good work done, but it's important to structure this carefully, to avoid constant frustration and conflict.
In any case, good management practices will help
- State clearly and explicitly what the ground rules are, what behavior is acceptable and what isn't.
- Set clear goals with well defined deliverables.
- Make sure the employees understand the goal and the deliverable. Make sure that they agree, that this is the right thing to work on and the right way to measure it. Work through any misalignments when needed.
- Listen to their input and feedback. Take it to heart and act on it, if appropriate