#432  from Innovative Leader Volume 8, Number 10          October 1999

FORUM—from our readers

Trouble Comes With Creativity

One of my staff members is exceptionally bright.  He’s also a “character.” Because of him, we’ve gotten out of all kinds of problems.  He works ten hours a day during the week, and works part of most weekends.  I consider Lou to be the most valuable person on my team.  But Lou has also caused me some serious trouble.

You see, Lou can never bring himself to admit that something isn’t working.  Because he is so clever, I give him the toughest assignments.  The problem is that he never admits it when he’s stumped.  Therefore, I usually have no idea if the project he is working on is, or isn’t, going well.  In response to asking him how things are going, he answers with “Just fine!”  “Are you sure?”  “Yes.”  “When will it be solved?”  “Soon.”

If he is having problems, it would be nice if he would tell me.  Then, I would assign someone to help him, or direct Lou to a potentially useful resource.  It’s just that I never know the fate of his project; that is, until it is solved.  Sometimes he can’t solve the challenge.  That makes it difficult for me to plan.  Also, my supervisor becomes frustrated and angry when I can’t tell him if we’re close to, or far from, the solution.

Lou likes to work by himself, and dislikes working with other people.  He’s just that way, and gets all in a tizzy when other people are involved.  Then he’s worthless.  I’ve spoken to him on many occasions, but he’s sticking to his personality, which he claims he can’t change.

In exasperation, a few years ago, I evaluated the net value of Lou, and determined that his contributions were so great that they offset his eccentricities.  I am willing to take the burden--and it is a burden--of not really knowing the status of his project.

Would you want to manage a person like Lou?  Would you want him in your group even if it’s clear that the gain in creative potential would offset the burden?  Or is creativity not really that important a factor? 

Anonymous

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