Being Bad is Good for Business

Do you ever think,  “I don’t really make the best employee because I always think I can do it better?” Watch out, your ego just walked in the room, and it’s feeling a bit stuffy…*gag*

I mean, who would want to hire someone who just said that in an interview? The thing is, your organization may just need a rule-breaker to stir things up and inspire some change when problems seem intractable. It’s called ‘positive deviance’. When your team members can ‘deviate’ with positive intent, the impact on your organization and team can be transformational at best, or just innovative at its most benign level. Excellence is good. Genius is better.

You might find these team members in your younger generation. See my recent blog post on Millennial Innovators on Causeit’s blog earlier this year.

Recently I attended an online summit initiated by Peter Vanderauwera organizing the “Corporate Rebels United” group, one of the many groups picking up on this particular corporate cultural meme. We’ve developed a list of principles that guide our rebellion which include ‘love’ as well as ‘passion’, ‘integrity’, and other ideals. I call it a manifesto. The point is, you can shake things up without being a bad person. Email me for more info on how to get involved. Your organization is depending on you!

How can leaders create an environment that allows for positive deviance?

  1. Tell your team that it’s OK to fail—commit to either backing them up when they fall over a cliff or letting them know when they’re venturing too far away from the comfort zone.

  2. Encourage them to question your thought process or decisions—there really are no stupid questions. When you can be transparent to your team, they’ll trust you more and take more risks on your behalf.

  3. Expect feedback—join me in this practice: once a week ask a team member to rate their working relationship with you on a scale of 1-10 (10 being stellar). When they say their number, ask them what would make it a 10 (if they said 10, reinforce #2).

Matthew Koren is a team management and leadership consultant and executive coach based out of Portland, OR. To learn more and receive great, useful content each month, sign up for my email list here.