Harnessing Difficult Personalities to Drive Innovation and Revenue

Harnessing Difficult Personalities_Drive Innovation and RevenueOver the last several decades personality evaluations like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, DiSC test, Core Values Index (CVI), and PATH assessment have made managers more aware of the different types of individual personalities represented in their employees, and how best to unify them around a set of organizational goals. These assessments highlight an individual’s predominant characteristics and traits to better understand what motivates them, which types of roles they are best suited for, and how to interact with them for optimal results.

But what about personality types that stick out from the crowd dramatically – the colloquial “sharp edge of the circle” so to speak?

A recent Fast Company article highlighted a unique personality that they called the “Rare Breed.” They explain that these so-called Rare Breeds do not conform, are outspoken, rebel against the establishment, exhibit unparalleled drive, and obsessively strive for high achievement at all costs. The article goes on to say that while companies typically view these as vices, they are also what drives innovation, making this personality type integral for organizations that prioritize out-of-the-box thinking. However, their big egos, short tempers, and manipulation of those around them can also be damaging to an organization if left unchecked.

Do you know anyone like that at your company?

How do you spot these individuals? What is the best strategy for managing them? What is the cost of their more damaging characteristics? And, is it even worth it to hire them when you consider the risks that they pose to the rest of the organization? Find out in the ultimate guide to managing difficult personalities to drive innovation and revenue growth:

Finding Rare Breeds in Sales and Marketing

While the specific “Rare Breed” character outlined by Fast Company is likely an amalgamation of different personalities, there are certainly people who fit the personality type in one way or another across every organization.

In sales, it is the “Rockstar.” This is your top performer. They always make the biggest sales, but the top accounts they bring in come at a cost because they typically do not play well with others, especially their fellow salespeople. They view themselves (and by extension, their clients) as the most important in the organization, demanding the best of everything and refusing to compromise. While your consistent performers may actually be responsible for most of your revenue, Rockstars have a self-aggrandizing personality, leading them to believe that they are the company’s most important asset. As a result of their hubris, Rockstars can easily draw the resentment of their fellow sales peers, who are likely competitive by nature.

In marketing, it is the “True Creative.” The True Creative views their language, design, or approach as the paragon of marketing and will not listen to opinions on how to improve on their ideas. They are not capable of collaborating because they view feedback as an attack on their superior creative vision. The True Creative has an oversized (albeit very fragile) ego, and wants their work accepted precisely as they presented it. As such, they typically do not play well with others across any area of the organization.

Rare Breeds in Management Roles

Whether it is sales or marketing, Rare Breed personality types should not hold managerial roles. Rare Breeds make terrible managers because they are incapable of looking out for the greater good of the organization. It is simply outside of their skill set. They are so self-focused that they approach every problem and challenge unilaterally – like they have the best solution and can fix anything on their own.

This mismatch gets even more dangerous the further you move up the organizational hierarchy. For instance, if the CRO (Chief Revenue Officer) or CEO (Chief Executive Officer) is a Rare Breed it creates even more volatility, severely compromising the company’s chances for success. If either role is held by a Rare Breed, individuals in other managerial positions beneath them can expect to be:

  • Overworked
  • Required to frequently change directions at a moment’s notice
  • Short lived in their roles if they speak up to offer a voice of reason

While Rare Breed individuals exhibit the most extreme versions of the traits they embody, these characteristics are beneficial in more diluted concentrations. C-suite leadership must have broad situational awareness to lead the company, but it does not hurt to possess smaller doses of some Rare Breed characteristics such as:

  • Thinking outside of the box
  • Passion for the role
  • Self-confidence
  • Dedication to the company’s mission
  • The ability to influence others
  • A voice to speak up and to change what is not working

Unlike a rare Breed though, CEOs and CROs must also be the glue that holds the organization together, leading in a way that fosters open communication and earns respect, to unite everyone behind the company’s mission.

Managing Rare Breed Personalities

Those in management roles are responsible for the people underneath them, no matter their personality types. Managers must be able to identify, acknowledge, and lead people with different skillsets to be successful.

However, Rare Breeds are more difficult to manage than other employees. An organization cannot reasonably accommodate more than one at a time and needs to have the procedures, people, and guidelines in place to be prepared for their behavior and manage them successfully. Their manager must be willing to hold them to deadlines and objectives, instead of letting them set their own rules. Furthermore, a manager needs to know that while a Rockstar is enamored with their own ideas, they will not all be winning ideas. Part of managing a Rockstar includes vetting their feedback and ideas to find areas where value may exist, understanding that you will need to turn over a lot of rocks to find the gems. But managing in this scenario goes in both directions because management must also insulate the organization from Rare Breeds to keep them from poisoning the team or company culture.

For instance, when you have a Rockstar salesperson, you need to build a team around them to support them and keep them productive while shielding the team from the effects of their difficult personality. The Rockstar’s manager must walk the fine line between treating them differently enough to appease their need for recognition while simultaneously making it seem like they are being treated like everyone else to keep the rest of the sales team from resenting them. The goal is to avoid neglecting everyone’s need for recognition by rewarding your Rockstar’s performance while also communicating the rest of the team’s value to the organization. One of the most effective ways to do this is through your sales compensation structure.

Regardless of the approach, you need to give both your Rockstar and your core performers their time in the spotlight without taking anything away from either of them. If this seems like a lot of work, it is! But if the Rockstar is that valuable, management must do what it needs to do to accommodate the individual while still helping the overall organization thrive and grow. Carving out a place for them in the organization, evaluating their work, and implementing their suggestions will help them to be successful.

The Cost of Getting it Wrong

“Innovation” has been an irresistible buzz word in the business realm over the last several decades, with its surge in popularity dating back to the mid-60’s. But companies blinded by trying to hire the next Jobs or Tesla or Gates to get ahead of their competition will find themselves in big trouble if they bring on a social misfit genius without a firm plan of how they will handle this type of personality.

Creating a plan, addressing friction, and replanning are critical when managing difficult personalities because the organization will pay the price of employing a Rare Breed without the right safety net in place in the form of:

  • Team conflict
  • Reduced trust in management
  • Diminished organizational culture
  • Brand damage
  • Decreased profitability and revenue

Is It Worth It?

With all these considerations, many hiring managers may ask, “Is it even worth it to hire someone like this?” The answer is yes.

Organizations need innovation across R&D, manufacturing, operations, sales, marketing, and possibly other areas of the business as well because innovation is not only external, but internal as well. Innovation is certainly vital in externally focused areas like product development, but it is just as important in internally focused areas like streamlining business operations to improve how work is being done. On both ends, the goal is to use innovation to get ahead and stay ahead of the competition, which makes innovators essential no matter what kind of personality baggage they bring.

Download the free, on-demand Sales Compensation whitepaper for plan examples and customizable templates. Looking for more help? Contact me for more information on aligning your sales and marketing teams to generate sustainable revenue growth.

Topics: Revenue Growth Profitability Sales Leadership Assessment Strategic Revenue Growth Recruiting Innovation Sales Training Business Culture Professional Development