Monkey Puzzle Blog

Worried Employee

Why aren’t my brilliant people being brilliant?

You’ve invested a huge amount of time and resources hiring the best people, you’ve got them in the right roles and are rewarding them well for their contribution - but you just don’t seem to be getting the success you’d anticipated. We hear this from CEOs a lot, especially in innovative and knowledge industries, often coupled with exasperation, frustrations and if they are self-aware enough, a smidgen of self-doubt.

Brilliant people can come with behaviour traits to test the strongest of leaders. Self-doubt, sensitivity to criticism, intense competitiveness – there’s plenty there to derail the effectiveness of teams and impact on productivity. It’s a bit like having all the best ingredients for a recipe - there’s great potential for an amazing result but it all depends on how you put them together and manage the process.

This article looks at the reasons why brilliance is very often lost in the culture and team dynamics and offers some remedies.

Your brilliant people (and their managers) need help – here’s why:

Imposter Syndrome has set in

Impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.(source Wikipedia). If you’re hiring specialists rather than generalists this exacerbates the problem, specialists pride themselves at being an expert so when they are asked to work with other experts it can trigger severe self-doubt.

It is thought that up to 70% of people experience this at some point (which makes it more of a normal human condition than a ‘syndrome’ - but that’s for another day). This is crippling for an organisation as people experiencing Imposter Syndrome will take fewer risks, make less progress in their work and become inefficient because the self-doubt leads to intense procrastination or constant checking.

It can also lead people to hide what they may consider being less than excellent work. It also makes people really sensitive to criticism, so having robust conversations becomes tricky and results in team related issues.

People become focused on their own success over the collaborative effort

If someone is used to being ‘at the top’ of their field and you put them together with other similarly brilliant people, suddenly they are no longer ‘at the top’. This loss of certainty and discomfort can provoke normally kind and collaborative human beings into intense competitive mode.

This results in all sorts of annoying, self-serving behaviour such as playing politics, a focus on the individual over team success, people being accused of stealing others’ ideas. This makes the organisation less focused and inefficient (as well as sending Boards and CEOs crazy!)

Your leaders and managers need to be up-skilled and developed

Brilliant people need world class leaders and managers. Period. To get your people working at their best, you need to invest heavily in creating leaders and managers who are well rounded human beings, excellent communicators with a highly developed ability to understand people, organise them, motivate them and take care of them. Everyone knows this is no easy task.

Brilliant people, particularly specialists, are not normally naturally good at organising, negotiating, collaborating, compromising and having difficult conversations. Your leaders and managers need all of these skills and to be very emotionally regulated to facilitate, encourage and shepherd all this talent towards your goals.


Call out Imposter Syndrome

Train leaders and managers in how to coach people to move on from it. Some innovative organisations include it in their induction process, this can be helpful but also risks installing it in people who think they ‘should’ have it to fit in!

Monkey Puzzle has created an Imposter Syndrome slideshow for Management Today – you’ll find some of our tips helpful. See 13 ways to beat imposter syndrome into submission.

Get creative with recognition

Introduce a variety of ways people can be recognised for their excellence and give them all equal importance. This could include financial rewards but also opportunities to be recognised internally and externally, time to work on a special project, opportunities to work with other brilliant people on high impact projects.

Training and development

Invest in the best training and development for your managers and leaders, they are the glue that holds it all together and the bar on competence for leaders and managers in this field is much higher than in fields focused on more tangible outputs.

In conclusion

Brilliant people often create challenges that need managing. Being brilliant alone isn’t enough to be effective, create results and meet expectations. This not only affects how they work and behave towards others – it also requires skillsets from managers and leaders to get the best from them. Brilliant people have enormous potential but, like any member of a team, they are not without their own needs.

For further information

If you are a leader wanting to get the best response from brilliant people, our Leadership Development programmes can help. From one day sessions to bespoke programmes, we’ll help your communication skills and confidence so both you and your team reach your full potential.

If you want to help your teams work better together, our Mind Mastery programmes will help improve communication, performance and ultimately, lead to better results.

How Can We help?

How else can we help?

If you’d like our support in making these ideas work for you and your business, please get in touch.

Click here to contact us

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