“Angel came down from heaven yesterday
She stayed with me just long enough to rescue me.”
                                                                                   Jimi Hendrix

Do You Have A “Genius” Problem?
Read On To Find Out…

So, Jimi Hendrix found his niche early and became world famous. A true genius.

But did you know he was kicked out of the U. S. Army after just one year for “behavior problems and required excessive supervision while on duty and had little regard for regulations.

But wait, there’s more. In the early 60s, Hendrix briefly teamed up with rock-n-roll legend Little Richard. Only that didn’t last long either. Apparently, Jimi was too flamboyant and didn’t follow the rules of dressing like the rest of the band. His style was too flashy and “out there”.

Little Richard’s brother, Robert Penniman, later added that Hendrix was fired because “he was always late for the bus and flirting with all the girls and stuff like that.

Eventually, Jimi found his own place and burned up the charts before he personally flamed out. A real tragedy.

                                      Don’t Tolerate A Genius Problem.

“The same personality traits that make them brilliant can also make them quirky and sometimes disruptive.”

Do you have a genius problem? How much disruption will you tolerate in exchange for high-caliber skills?

That’s a tough one to answer. We all have seen “that employee” — the one who is uber-talented but also disruptive, or worse, disrespectful of others. Yet, they often have a unique vision and can create changes in your business rapidly. But it often comes at a price.

Others just don’t fit in.  Employees that are super-talented but disruptive may help in the short-term but will create a toxic environment in the long-term. And that’s a bigger problem than many business owners and leaders may realize and don’t fully understand.

Your culture is critical to your success. It’s a precious and unique commodity to your company. Keeping highly productive but disruptive people may actually be causing your best people to leave. Sound familiar? It’s all too often the tale of the tape when it comes time to make tough decisions about your team.

High-Impact Talent (HIT®) Must Be Able To Drive
Productivity, Enhance Your Culture & Give You Capacity.

HIT’s won’t tolerate an environment that rewards selfish performance without honoring the culture or the company.

“Genius” employees can be a long-term fit, IF they also enhance your culture and have the capacity to drive positive change and growth.

Some can be a short-term solution to getting a new system, process or program up and running. But I have found that people who thrive in a creative, visionary process often have a shelf life in the execution department. They enjoy the challenge of creating and laying the foundation but are not good at hanging drywall or doing the finishing work.

Others can be a short-term success and a long-term nightmare.  They can carve out a niche for themselves where they become invaluable to the business while also being a disruptive force that prevents you from moving your culture or business forward.

What Should You Do If You Have A Genius Problem?

Well, l can’t think of a better answer to this problem than the one I came across recently in a great piece written by noted author and human relations guru Luba S. Sydor. I think she hits the proverbial nail on the head. Worth thinking about. Here’s what she had to say on this topic:

High-maintenance employees are often perceived as demanding, uncooperative, and arrogant. Yet they can be a company´s most creative, driven, innovative, and best-performing workers. Sometimes the same keen intelligence that makes them talented also makes them challenging. Think Steve Jobs and Bill Gates would have been easy to manage? Think again…

Make Them Aware.

A manager must make sure the employee is aware of the problems they are causing in the workplace. It is easy for an employee to be completely blind to his or her distracting behavior. Awareness is the first and most important step in dealing with an employee who has a difficult personality.

Gain Understanding.

Put simply, the employee needs to show a willingness to change his demeanor and personality. If an employee complains all the time, he must admit to excessive complaining and make an effort to complain less in the future.

Be Thoughtful About Assignments.

To the extent possible (and naturally this isn’t always controllable), provide some especially substantive, challenging assignments that will fully utilize and stretch their considerable skills. “We give our best people the worst assignments,” was a how a former colleague of mine used to jokingly put it. Such assignments can also engage them and bring out their best.

Be Direct & Give Ample Feedback.

Don’t dance around problems – articulate the issues as precisely as possible. If there’s difficulty, for example, collaborating with other team members as a member of the XYZ team, state it. If there are problems delivering projects on deadline, state it.. Provide feedback often, positive or negative.

No Drama. 

When conflicts arise, as they inevitably do, stay calm. Some challenging employees even enjoy being provocateurs. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into the fray.

Document Clearly.

Remember that thorough documentation is always necessary for clear fact-based evaluations, assessing objectively whether goals are achieved or not. Solid documentation is also essential should you need to build a case for termination.

I know how difficult a genius problem can be. But there ARE ways to manage it. Let’s face it; some of the talented and highly creative people in any business are often, well, different. Celebrate the difference. Enjoy the challenge Just be aware that having a genius doesn’t automatically mean you will have a problem.

Just let them wear what they want when they’re on stage and perform. That’s what stars do and why they stand out.

For more on this topic (and a funny read), you can read How to Manage Your Smartest, Strangest Employee from the Harvard Business Review.

If you’d like more of my thoughts about hiring HIT, read our article “Train in Vain” – Don’t Use a “Hired Gun” Recruiting Strategy.

In the meantime…

Make Your Business Rock!


Corey Harlock
Principal Consultant

tune into talent

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