Game changers: How to get them to full potential

Game changers don’t just adapt to their environment – they shape it
It’s vital that traditional structures don’t stifle these invaluable employees

THE TRADITIONAL concepts of business manager and business leader are being challenged by a shifting global economy, new technology and an increasing demand for a more diverse workforce. And business strategies are being overhauled, as leading organisations recognise the importance of those individuals who deliver disproportionate impact compared to their peers: the 20 per cent who drive 80 per cent of the value. These are not leaders or high potentials, but a different breed – the game changers.

A recent study by eg.1 and Dialogue showed that these disruptive, idea-executing individuals exist at every level of organisations. In fact, 84 per cent of leaders we asked believe people in junior roles could change the game in their company without having to be put in a senior management position.

So how can game changers be managed and their special talents leveraged to ensure that they fulfil their potential – to the benefit of a business?

When it comes to personality type, game changers exhibit extremely high levels of vigour, big picture thinking and risk taking. Most significantly, they have an obsessive desire to make an idea reality – regardless of how challenging that could be.

They embody the drive to both survive and thrive by not only adapting positively to their environment but shaping it. But that does mean they pose challenges for traditional corporate organisational structures that are based upon “safe continuous improvement” at best, and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” at worst.

There are, of course, those leaders who do recognise the need to do something different with the talent they employ. But too often, those hired to drive growth and impact a business are then confined and stifled by a rigid talent process, and by restrictive corporate-wide metrics and assessment frameworks.

Leaders need to create a culture that empowers managers to look for the game changers within their teams and allow them to take the risks to go beyond the status quo. It makes no sense to hire people because they are different and then fire them because they are not the same.

The most powerful thing managers can do is eliminate the practice of discriminating, recruiting or promoting on the basis of previous experience, or someone’s current position. So corporate culture, processes and systems need to be flexible enough to allow game changers, and those that manage them, to take risks and even fail, without the pressures of “saving face” or maintaining a veneer for the next promotion round. After all, getting to the top of the corporate ladder is not the only sustainable metric for success.

The organisations that are successful in identifying game changers, and creating the right environment for them to thrive, will be those that are successful in the decade to come.

Nathan Ott is chief executive of eg.1.

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