Here’s to the Misfits
So many from earlier generations pined for the Christmas special Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. Do you remember it? Jerky Claymation, goofy songs, hokey lines about teamwork, individuality, and Christmas spirit? Watching it now, you might roll your eyes and quickly change the channel, but we were sucked in anyway like the program was some sort of candy cane vortex. I especially appreciated Hermey, the elf who just wanted to be a dentist. Hermey was a nonconforming elf, a misfit. He loathed the rank-and-file life of toy making, spoke his mind whenever his priorities rubbed against popular opinion, and always seemed to on the wrong side of management, aka Santa. Luckily, Hermey found allies and creative “juice” in other misfits like the red-nosed one himself. By the end of the Christmas special, Hermey, DDS, is recognized as an essential member of Team Claus.
There are misfits on all our teams. They are essential. Who are our misfits? Often, they are the ones who spend an inordinate amount of time in our office for tardiness to staff meetings, verbal jousts with colleagues, arguments with superiors, or just otherwise bizarre, nonconforming behaviour. The thing is the misfits are also the ones who hit the product, marketing, and strategic homeruns with greater ease and consistency than their more conforming colleagues. They come to play. They come to win. As a lifetime misfit, I keenly understand the heartburn misfits bring to the corporate ethos, especially for those tasked with keeping them in their lanes. I also know that the misfits drive innovation, push the larger team to be more creative, and, when in their inventive groove, are the most productive members of the entire company. Yes, misfits can drive you crazy. I LOVE the misfits.
If you want your team and business to thrive, understand that the misfits must be an integral part of the business. What can you do to keep the mavericks, fiery ones, nonconformists, and risk takers focused on the desired outcomes? For starters, make sure you are fully connecting their gifts with the needs of the organization. A misfit who is misplaced – doing the wrong job – will drive you and the rest of your team insane. However, aligning unique talents with appropriate roles and/or projects within the organization, will keep your misfits productive and engaged, and optimizing their potential. Also, give your misfits space to do their jobs. While you cannot custom fit your organization’s policies and leadership structure to appease or tiptoe around the misfits, you can provide flexibility in HOW they deliver the desired outcomes. Don’t make the nonessential stuff deal breakers. And never overlook the importance of recognizing the contributions of your misfits. When the rest of the team sees you honouring the good work of those who are different, those who do not conform, they may begin to better appreciate the power of diversity.
Here is to the misfits, the nonconformists, the fiery ones, the mavericks, and the risk takers in our organizations. A generation ago, those who did not fit the corporate mold were quickly ushered out of the organization if they were even hired in the first place. Today, we recognize that that the misfits are often the most passionate, bold, innovative, and faithful members of our teams.
Connect them with the right work. Give them space. Affirm their successes.
Be bold. Embrace Your Misfit.