Monday, January 13, 2014

Perturburances

I have been blessed over the last 40 years to work with/for/around some amazingly talented people. One trend I’ve noticed (this is not a scientific observation, mind you) is that many extremely talented people are what we sometimes describe as “high-maintenance.”  While they may be masterful organizers, musicians, thinkers, gitter-doners, etc., many also possess some interesting quirks (often closely akin to passionate obsessions).  I have come to think of these folks as “perturberances” (yep, I made that word up). 

As an organizational leader, I’ve frequently found myself supervising said perturberances.  And, as an old guy, I find myself mentoring quite a few young organizational leaders, who find themselves supervising said perturberances.  I've seen a fair number organizational leaders get distracted by those highly talented, but disturbance-causing people (i.e., the perturberances) on their teams.  Some share those frustrations with me, seeking a solution to the heartburn that the perturberances cause.  And they think they want to control or manage those disturbance creators.  I used to suffer from the same illusions. The all too often end result is that the talent “walks.”

Our teams NEED talent.  No team can have too much talent.  However, the fact is that talent can work just about anywhere talent wants to.  Understanding that tolerating a bit of perturberance on a team is worth it to salvage the talent, and your performance and your innovativeness, is an important step in our growth as leaders.  Admittedly, care must be taken to monitor team chemistry closely.  There can (and sometimes does) come a point at which the team can no longer handle the perturberances, and becomes dysfunctional.  At that point, some parting of ways may need to occur.  However, that is not the typical circumstance.

I have come to believe (rather firmly) that organizational environments that foster a culture of mastery, purpose, and autonomy (see Dan Pink on this topic), are the ones that best accommodate the  perturberance types.   What happens too often is that cultural norms that insist on consistency, compliance, think-alike-ness, talk-alike-ness, look-alike-ness also have the tendency to manifest mediocre kinds of perform-alike-ness.  Not the kind of team I want to be on, or lead.


Over the years I’ve learned to enjoy working with the perturberances, despite the heartburn.  What they add to the organization, generally, far outweighs any dissonance they cause.  You can send your perturbances my way if you get tired of them.

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