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Including Disruptive Talent In Change

Posted by Neena Baid on Monday, December 28, 2015

Managing someone with ‘disruptive talent’ characteristics can be quite a perplexing task for any leader or manager day to day. Overseeing someone with these behaviours during change can be a challenge unless you understand what you are dealing with. Once you learn how to master and manoeuvre their customary routines it will be extremely rewarding.  So what is disruptive talent behaviour?

‘Disruptive talent’ is a term coined by the performance consultancy Organisational Effectiveness Cambridge (OE Cam). It is used to describe talent that are extremely creative and self-motivated. They keep up to date with the latest trends, are driven in achieving results and see opportunities in almost everything. Even though they are regarded as a rising star they can be difficult to manage, they will bombard you with a series of questions if they are not convinced by something or even challenge you ‘head on’ without realising that it may not be entirely professional behaviour. You have heard people call them passionate, challenging, persistent and obstinate. Nevertheless everyone agrees they are a great addition to the team as well as the company and excel in delivering results. Sound familiar?

Most successful entrepreneurs are usually disruptive talent because of their drive, enthusiasm and their ability to focus on achieving results. Unfortunate for some they cannot hold down a regular job because they don’t like taking instructions (which they refer to as ‘orders’) or when/if they believe something isn’t right they find it hard to hold it in.  When they do let it out, people refer to them as being direct or intense. In addition to this many people prefer not to work with them because of their demeanour.  Disclaimer: I am not claiming that everyone in your team that behaves in this way is disruptive talent, as an experienced manager I would be naïve to believe such a thing. I am suggesting that some of those that you believe to be extremely talented with a wealth of promises are likely to be a creative star (which is what leaders believe promotes effectiveness).

Given all of the difficulties that we may be faced with, how do we manage disruptive talent during significant change? Two key things to remember are you must understand your change in its entirety and its vision remember they like asking questions. From here you can build on credibility, support it and delegate responsibility. A creative personality doesn’t work well with too much process and structure, allow them to explore alternative avenues (if it doesn’t involve regulatory or compliance work) to achieve their goals. They must feel in control so allow them to focus that control on what it is they are doing or have been tasked to deliver – still allowing reasonable time which has been agreed for dialogue and discussing next steps so things don’t stray. The last thing is to give them space if they have been tasked with something don’t keep checking because they will see this as nagging and lack of trust.

I mentioned before that some people prefer not work with disruptive behaviour types which is a real shame because of the good they bring. I haven’t met one truly successful person that I have thought wasn’t a bit weird. I believe this should be celebrated.


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