Leader Volume 10, Number 2
Learn to Play Ball With the Oddballs!
Robinson is a human resource consultant in Austin, Texas (phone
512-472-4412), helping organizations implement creativity. www.io.com/~stellar/adr/anne.html
Some time ago, I
saw a drawing of a suited young fellow dancing on a high wire
outside an office window. Inside,
one executive is saying to another, “Don’t judge him too
harshly; he may be our next vice-president.”
lenient, attitude is fairly indicative of current existing
situations because today’s business talent is coming in some
eye-opening packages. Since
nearly every male one sees is sporting some kind of facial
adornment, beards are no longer a commercial no-no. The same goes for ponytails or shoulder-length hair.
And not-too-in-your-face piercings are found in both sexes.
Even guys and
gals roaring into parking lots on motorcycles don’t rate a
speaking, CEO’s are not yet too forgiving of boots on the
conference table. Or
flat and unadorned rejections of their suggestions and plans.
Or a young employee’s confident out-in-left-field
solution to a posed problem.
How much fresh
and salient thought is coming from what the old-timers call the
“crazy corner?” And
it isn’t presented in neatly-assembled-a-copy-for-everybody
format. It’s often
blurted out as a total non-sequitur to the currently discussed
topic. To the utter
dismay of the more conventional participants, the abrupt,
out-of-order announcement is frequently the solution the group has
been fruitlessly seeking.
Needless to say,
the reaction of most of the recipients of “the ideal solution”
is negative, ranging from outrage through sarcastic rejoinder to
“Is that you speaking or the water bucket leaking?” glares.
Even when bright boy’s (or girl’s) suggestion is
obviously right on, the group feels compelled to put the
pugnacious problem-solver in his/her proper place.
Obviously, such a
knee-jerk reaction can rob a group or an employee of valuable
mind-power. On the
other hand, meetings should
be scheduled for a purpose,
and that purpose should be met in the shortest possible
time--thereby honoring the schedules of the participants.
With “Strange” People
So how can we
acknowledge the worth of the interrupter’s contribution without
denigrating the value of the other employees?
Here are a few approaches:
• The chairperson immediately acknowledges the suggestion and
its worth, and says, “Hold that thought.
Talk with me immediately after this meeting.”
• The chairperson asks the group to briefly table its agenda
and applaud the suggestion--announcing that immediate plans will
be made to consider the idea further.
• If there is a
vice-chair present, the chair turns the meeting over to him/her
and takes the interrupting problem-solver out for a one-on-one
consideration of the idea. The
chair then sends word to the vice-chair that another meeting will
be scheduled in the near future to consider and, if necessary,
build on the idea.
applaud the value of the idea, while acknowledging the worth of
other employees’ time.
meeting interruptions aren’t the only challenging aspects of the
oddball’s personality. One
employee had an abiding fear of forgetting appointments, so he
strung a clothes-line across his office and used clothes’ pins
to hang up reminders of his “important encounters.”
This aberration naturally was met with a sneer from a
strongly left-brain fellow employee who said, “That looks as if
he’s doing the weekly wash!”
off-the-wall personality (this one female) decorated her office
with pictures of famous courtesans, feather boas, fake jewelry and
hair ornaments. There
was also a recognizable scent of an international perfume.
Snapped a more down-to-earth colleague, “It reminds me of
Mae West’s bedroom!”
Members of both
sexes occasionally burn incense, do Yoga poses, sit in meditative
positions. They claim
these definitely-not-Wall-Street approaches help them relieve
stress, lower their brainwave frequencies to a more creative
level, and induce their best thinking.
Who can argue
with any of these rather unusual practices?
How the clothes-line guy jogs his memory interferes with no
one. And he regularly
meets his appointments. As
long as the perfume in “Mae West’s bedroom” isn’t
offensively strong in the next room, cubicle or hall, who is
harmed? How different
types court their individual Muses is their private business, so
long as their meditations aren’t time-consuming cop-outs.
Anyone who reads
current literature on the encouragement of creative thought will
realize that there are many paths to Eureka!
Human brainpower is undeniably the treasure capital of the
future. It comes in many forms, sizes, flavors and wrappings.
So let’s not judge the gift by the gift box.
One of the most delicious treats I’ve run across is
called “reindeer feed” and it’s sacked in a burlap bag.
consistently deceptive. I
am an identical twin. My
sister and I were very much alike outside.
Inwardly, we couldn’t have been more different.
We had different preferences in friends and wardrobes--not
to mention life in general. Our
minds worked in utterly divergent ways.
So if you are in
a management position, continue to appreciate your less colorful
cohorts. They may
think more slowly, more predictably.
They may be simply your safekeeping group.
You will need those too.
But if you hope
to run alongside or surpass the leaders, you will have to lengthen
your stride, pep up your pace.
For those kinds of improvements you will require the
leap-the-steps thinkers, the interrupters, the blurt-outers, and
the impatient geniuses.
That’s why I
say: Let’s put
aside prejudice. Let’s juggle judgment.
Let’s underscore understanding.
Let’s learn to play ball with the oddballs!