Early in my management career I had the great pleasure or perhaps better put misfortune to work with a pure innovator. As I said in my post last week, most of us are usually a blend of several styles but predominately one under favorable conditions and another one when under stress. With that in mind, it is rare to find an individual who exhibits the same style under both conditions and even more rare, thank goodness, for that one style to be an Innovator.
The person I am referring to, who will remain nameless to protect the innocent, was the most brilliant individual that I have to this day ever met. He could come up with an overabundance of new ideas, could imagine how they would be built and could even envision exactly what they would look like. He was a deep well of software architectural knowledge, could expound on any subject, would work day and night on the next innovation, and always be seeking out new approaches. He was highly valued for his new ideas so of course he was put in charge of the entire software engineering team. He was brilliant and it stood to reason he should be in charge, right? Well, as those of us who have had a few years of management know, you don’t put someone in the manager’s role just because they are the smartest technology guru. Putting this pure innovator into a people and project management position was like asking the cat to kiss the dog. It was a recipe for disaster.
To sum up his project management skills, everything was easy and would be finished tomorrow. His people skills were nonexistent. He thought that everyone should work all day and night just like he did, no mentoring or people engagement here, he was brilliant after all and always knew all of the answers and could of course do it much faster himself.
I am sad to say that it took several projects that never saw the light of day and the loss of multiple valued staff for someone to finally see that this just was not the proper fit. A niche was carved out for this brilliant individual where he could operate in a “think tank” mode and come up for air periodically to share his project ideas and then return to his pizza box and toy strewn office for another round of extreme innovation. He was much happier in his new role and the rest of us were certainly much happier having him in this role.
As you will remember from last week the outward signs of an Innovator are:
- Head in the clouds with lots of great ideas.
- Always looking for new ways to accomplish things.
- Stays at high level – does not live for the details
- Anything is possible and it’s all quick and easy
- Toys all over their desk
- Might forget to put on their pants
I can’t say that I ever saw him without his pants (and probably wouldn’t tell you if I had), but I have seen him asleep on the floor of his office under his desk after putting in yet another all night siege to find the way to software nirvana.
In case you think that I still work with this individual, let me be clear, that even though we did find him a different role, his self-esteem was harmed by his unhappy stint as a manager. It was a rare occurrence for him to have failed at anything and not easily tolerated by someone with an Innovator style. He has since gone on to a much different career and I believe he is now mining sugar from salt mines, but happily working alone in this entrepreneurial endeavor.
Next week, my experiences working with a Thinker. I call this one how to examine every little detail over and over and over again.