This guest post is by Lois Kelly, co-author of Rebels at Work, and former marketing agency executive. Lois is leading our upcoming Master Class Workshop, Be the Change Maker on May 10.
I walked into the office at 7:30 a.m. and found a mess.
Radical, half-baked creative ideas for a new client in the copying machine.
Upset people who felt they had been run over by domineering egos.
Expense charges that I hadn’t approved.
The most disruptive people in the firm had been up all night working, but many felt it was more of a frat-boy brainstorming party. Geez, Louise, this isn’t how we work around here.
As a young manager I knew that these team members were big-brain innovators, the kind that would help win clients and provide amazing new value to current clients. But I had no idea how to manage them.
It was the most stressful period in my career. Probably for them, too. They wanted to do brilliant work, not be “managed.” I wanted some sort of order and predictability.
What I learned from managing disruptive rebels
What I learned from my experience and co-writing the book, literally, on rebels (Rebels at Work: A Handbook for Leading Change From Within) is that these disruptive types are not a manager’s enemy or even necessarily a troublemaker. In fact, they may be our most valuable employees, helping us identify risks, solve problems, and create better ways to serve our customers and clients.
The second thing I learned is that many young, talented people coming into the workforce think that we as managers want new ideas. They assume that part of their job responsibility is to find ways to improve things at work. Not take orders and obey rules. What they need from their manager differs from what we may have needed from our bosses 15 or more years ago. The world of work is being transformed.
That said, it can be exhausting to supervise someone who constantly generates ideas, asks questions, and challenges the way things operate. (And who occasionally gets angry and pissy when things aren’t changing fast enough.)
At the May 10 Center for Collaborative Leadership master class workshop, Be the Change Maker, I’ll be helping talented people learn how to be more constructive Rebels at Work. How to how to rock the boat without falling out, and do so in ways that feel inclusive and positive vs. defiant and negative.
8 things rebels need from their boss
Many managers like to take this workshop with their Rebels to learn how to be a better rebel boss and deepen their relationship in win-win ways. But if you can’t come, here are eight things Rebels at Work want their boss to know:
- We are not troublemakers. We’re motivated to make our organization better than it is.
- We care more about work than most people. That’s why we’re willing to engage in controversy and be snubbed for pointing out the elephants in the room.
- We need a work environment where it’s safe to disagree and ask questions that challenge the status quo.
- Research shows that the more diverse a team’s mindsets and experiences, the smarter and more creative the team. We may not be like you and that is a good thing. Love our differences and quirks.
- Challenge us. Give us the thorniest problems. Let us prove that our “wild ideas” can work. We want to be stretched, not do work as usual.
- Don’t give us lip service. If one of our ideas isn’t important to our goals or it’s just too radical for the culture, tell us that, not something glib like, “there’s no budget or resources.”
- Coach us on how to navigate organizational politics so we avoid making mistakes that could embarrass you and us.
- Tell us what we’re doing right more than what we’re doing wrong. Appreciation has been found to be the greatest sustainable motivator at work. Give us more and we’ll move mountains for you.
Is it worth the effort?
People often ask whether managing a rebel is more work for a manager. Most definitely.
Is it worth the effort? Our research shows that rebels have the guts and courage to take risks amid uncertainty — and make tough decisions even when there’s a chance they’ll fail. These are the same characteristics as innovators and how many organizations define high performers.
The most surprising value of managing rebels, however, is that they push us to grow and become stronger leaders.
Being a manager of rebels was never easy for me and the business results were brilliant. But if I had only known how to be a better manager of these creative and talented people, the work would have been so much more fun and meaningful for us all.
Please, learn from my mistakes – and send your Rebels to me on May 10. There will be a whole lot of learning and raucous fun.
To learn more about Lois, her points of views, and her workshops, check out www.foghound.com and www.rebelsatwork.com. She tweets under @LoisKelly and under @RebelsatWork with co-author Carmen Medina.