Stop Domesticating Remarkable People

People in the middle are forgettable. Obsessed people are remarkable.

Danger:

Average leaders want everyone else to be average.

Leaders face the danger of domesticating remarkable people. In the process, remarkable people become average, forgettable.

Illustration:

I see a remarkable hotel employee a few times a year. She ALWAYS smiles and asks in a bright Mexican accent, “How are you?” She draws out the “ou” a little.

Her eyes wrinkle in the corners validating her smile. 

The last time I saw her, I asked, “How are you so happy all the time?” She replied, “I want MY guests to enjoy their stay.

Notice she said, “My guests.” She doesn’t own the hotel. She restocks the breakfast buffet. She’s done it for years.

Some mornings I want to be left alone. Some mornings I don’t like cheerful people. However, of all the hotel employees I meet, this one rises to the top. (Even if she irritates me once in awhile.)

Outstanding qualities have a downside.

  1. Happy people irritate grumpy people.
  2. Detail people drive big picture people crazy.
  3. Planners drive spontaneous people nuts.

Avoid domestication:

If you aren’t careful, you’ll domesticate top performers. They’re too happy, too detail oriented, or they plan too much.

Compared to average people, remarkable people are obsessed.

I had an obsessive detail-person on my team. Nothing was good enough for him.

He moved my laptop a quarter of an inch before I gave presentations. He tweaked lights, chairs, sound, projection. He was the tweakmeister.

Others felt they couldn’t do anything good enough for him. 

5 ways to celebrate obsession:

  1. Realize that remarkable people invite strong reactions.
  2. Run interference for remarkable people.
  3. Design jobs around remarkable people.
  4. Teach team members how to tolerate each other’s obsessions. Laugh a little.
  5. Add mitigating qualities and skills to obsessed people, but don’t weaken their obsession.

How might leaders protect and maximize remarkable people?