There has been considerable conversation recently in the professional journals regarding the “care and feeding” of the BPC (Brilliant Problem-Child). This is that high potential, high performance individual that, unfortunately, scores very low on collaboration and interpersonal skills. (S)He can’t play well with others, tramples on reports and makes a mockery of transfunctional teams, but produces more and better results than anyone else–at least for now—so nobody upstairs wants to lose him or her. Here are some thoughts on this all-to-common dilema:
TAKE A LOOK AT YOUR PRACTICED CORPORATE VALUES: Is there a disconnect between your printed corporate values and your team’s practiced values? Is, in fact, an excess of aggressiveness and competition on an individual’s part a mere reflection of what the company wants? Is the BPC just doing what (s)he believes should be done?
STRENGTHEN THE TEAM: I have seen many BPCs come and go over the years and I have also seen many grow and become productive and excellent team members. The difference, in many cases, is the degree of development of the team. Are your team members confronting (in the positive sense) one another? Is there an open and transparent process of feedback and affirmation amongst them? Are all important qualities being recognized and celebrated, not just regarding the “doing” but also the “being”? Are you modeling those behaviors?
MAKE SURE THE BPC HAS THE TOOLS: It’s possible that the person is just not aware of the impact upon other of his or her actions or that (s)he has not had access to an appropriate training and coaching process.
LEVEL WITH THE BPC: Talk directly one-on-one with the BPC. Recognize his or her strengths and also clearly indicate the specific behaviors that are unacceptable to you, your team or the organization, and develop a S.M.A.R.T plan for modifying those inacceptable behaviors.
BE COURAGEOUS: Once you have your plan, remember that without a culture of consequences, no other culture will work. General Charles deGaulle said: “The cemeteries are full of indispensable men.” and Karl Marx reminded us that “The good of the many outweigh the good of the few”. Don’t risk losing your good team members or your own credibility by failing to be valient enough to ask the BPC, when all else fails, to go be indispensible somewhere else.
DON’T THROW OUT THE BABY WITH THE BATHWATER: At the same time we consider all of the above, let’s not forget that the key to synergy and innovation is diversity, so give the BPC a fair chance to work it out and make sure that you and the rest of your team do what is possible to help him or her to do so. Many will not respond – being a BPC can be part of a personality disorder – but many can and will respond.