Writer and life coach Eileen Anglin says the following: "I think what people call "weird" comes part and parcel with people who are brilliant in some way. So embrace your weird. Embrace your eccentricity."
I love eccentric people. I must admit I am partial to hiring them. It's risky, but it's mostly paid off for me. When you can harvest the bounty of original personalities you often have something special indeed. Yes, original people are often arrogant, blunt, erratic, and moody. But they can be oh so wonderful. They offer an extraordinary value to the employer who can stomach them. For myself, I can not only stomach them, I truly swim in the joy of their company. I am enlivened by their intuition, their humor, their integrity, and, frequently, by their love.
Furthermore, the most transformational, impassioned corporate executives often have the spirited orneriness, quirkiness, and originality of the entrepreneur.
The big problem with hiring creative, independent folks is managing them. I once had a whole company of these type folks. So, how did I handle them efficaciously as a boss? Well, the short answer is I basically didn't manage them. I coaxed them, I spoiled them, I loved them. I let them fail and grow--and mostly succeed. My risk was leavened by the fact that I tried to never hire anyone who wasn't better than me. I wanted a company of CEOs. I only asked them to have a moral core, a commitment to my culture, corporate trope, and community, and to follow simple administrative process. I actually seldom needed to fire my associates.
So, how do you engage, utilize and retain these creative, questing souls? Here are six specific suggestions.
- Give creatives meaningful work. Creatives often think about the bigger issues in life, the forest as well as the trees. Only give them interesting, challenging projects and clients. Give them hard stuff.
- Trust them. Assuming they are ethical and diligent, let them fumfer their own way to success. Give creatives the freedom and flexibility to flourish. Don't force them into excessive structure or quotas. It obviates the very reason you hired them.
- Be flexible. If new hires excel, let them do it their way. If they create superb results working five hours a week in their underwear at home, when you are paying them for 40 hours in the office, who cares?
- Give them a sense of ownership. Ask their opinion and take their advice seriously. Make them feel valued, an essential part of the organism that is your company.
- Don't expect to motivate them through money. Of course pay them fairly, but research indicates these out-of-the norm individuals may actually be discouraged and perform poorly when they are rewarded just for completing a task. (Note the seminal research by Edward Deci--Psychological Bulletin, vol. 125, November, 1999.) And note what that irreplaceable wise man of motivation and happiness, Mihaly Czikzentmihalyi, says in his classic book, Flow: "The most important quality, the one that is most consistently present in all creative individuals, is the ability to enjoy the process of creation for its own sake." Indeed.
- As a caveat, do not make pure creative eccentrics managers. Ever.
When Jeff Bezos hired a search firm to staff up his aborning and disruptive company Amazon, he reportedly was asked what he was looking for in an employee. Supposedly he responded, "Give me your wackos." Amen, Brother Jeff. Me too.