Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Motivated or CTOs?

Lately, I am meeting a lot of people that see themselves as CTOs, meaning Chief Troublemaker Officer. When I speak with them, I sense they are motivated, with a lot of energy or drive or innovative ideas or desire or all of the above. Nevertheless, they have a sense of being the "black sheep" on their teams. Usually they think that their managers see them as "people that complain and bring bad vibe to the rest of the team", or "people that live in a bubble and don't understand that things are done in a certain way".
So what to do with these people?

For some managers who control humans, I can see how some of these people are CTO. They are the ones that question decisions, bring up issues, come up with ideas after something is decided, want to try new things when a decision is made on how to execute something, point out issues and make even other people on the team think twice before agreeing to do something or how to do something.
For some other managers that know how to control human energy, I can see how they can use the drive, desire and motivation of these people to create an environment where ideas are welcome even late, where passion and desire is understood as first step toward innovation, where they can use these people as examples to pull and lighten up other people in the team that are more reserved and quiet.

So, the management style does affect these people a lot. Under a manager they shine. Under another manager they are troublemakers. When seen as troublemakers, they usually close up, shut down and check out. They might continue working and finish tasks, but they are just your average employee, with a lot of potential to be a star employee. Who is an outstanding employee, anyway?
Is a motivated person an outstanding employee or just a troublemaker?

To go back to the management style, an outstanding employee might be someone that follows rules, executes what is told, once in a while has good ideas, respects hierarchy and respects others in the team. For another management style, an outstanding employee is someone that looks forward to challenges, is always in touch with the latest of the industry and wants to bring it all in the team, questions decisions in order to make everyone think of the best decision, has open attitude with others in the team and doesn't try to play nice  but rather play strong.

These people are high risk, in the sense that they are talented but when they don't see themselves on the right place, they move on and you lose talent. One trick to lower this risk and keep them around is to keep them motivated, interested and focused on what they like to do even when they feel they are not appreciated. Communication techniques are very helpful here because they might help re-position them in front of their managers. Just by changing the way "the Trouble" is introduced, results might be different. It is important thought to start these healing techniques early, on the first sign of feeling a CTO. If it doesn't get taken care of, just like any other small problem that gets repressed instead of fixed, it becomes a big issue and sometimes not fixable. Humans are easily broken and relationships sometimes go to a point of no return and require drastic changes.

I read somewhere that 60% of the issues in a relationship are unfixable. You think you fixed them, it is all good for a while, but then they come back just like before. By switching to another relationship, you are just exchanging a set of 60% of issues with another set of 60% of issues. Make sure you pick a manager and a team that gives you 60% of the unfixable issues that you can handle. Try to work on your communication skills and stay motivated until a better solution comes easy to you.


  1. Great managers understand what situational leadership (Directing->Coaching->Supporting-> Delegating) is. Different employees need to be managed in different ways. This is what authority boards and delegation poker in Management 3.0 is based on.

  2. We go back in how important the management style is and how these people are positioned under different styles. The problem with that is that a lot of human energy and creativity can be flushed away if not controlled properly. All management 3.0 techniques should come from managers. If someone else brings them, they are asking to be promoted CTO