Imagine the following conversation taking place at a performance appraisal.
“Dear Pablo Piccasso, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Mother Teresa, Ellen MacArthur or Wangari Maathai,
“Looking at your track record, you consistently deliver As in some areas. On the other hand, you get Cs in several others. The key to growth, of course, is to be well rounded.
“Looking at the year ahead, we recommend that you focus primarily on your Cs. We are sure this will increase your development.”
Don Clifton and Marcus Buckingham wrote in Now, Discover Your Strengths:
“When we studied them, excellent performers were rarely well rounded. On the contrary, they were sharp … Whatever you set your mind to, you will be most successful when you craft your role to play to your signature talents most of the time.”
Peak performers are, by definition, extremists. They perform brilliantly in few areas and not in others. Being an extremist, however, does not excuse bad manners. Professional etiquette calls for them behaving well towards other people. They must learn to build on their As and manage the consequences of their Bs and Cs.
Such people cause another difficulty for administrators of psychometric tests. The tester asks:
“Are you a visionary or do you have attention to detail?”
The person replies: “Yes.”
The tester asks: “But which?”
“I do both,” replies the person.
They will probably not pass the test and get into the organisation.
Great workers focus deeply on a specific activity. Within that discipline, however, they balance seeming paradoxes. They seem able to see the big picture and the small details, to be focused and flexible, to be serious and playful.
Al Siebert, the author of The Survivor Personality and The Resiliency Advantage, discovered this trait when studying people who had overcome huge setbacks. He found that:
“Survivors are uniquely complex. They have many paradoxical traits and attributes. This gives them choices for doing one thing or doing the opposite – depending on their reading of the situation. Inner complexity is why survivors are more flexible and adapt more quickly than people with rigid, inflexible ways of doing things.”
Peak performers have a duty to use of their gifts. They do extreme things to get extreme results. But they also have a duty to be professional towards others. They can then give their best to other people and the planet.
* 3 tips for being a deviant who delivers.
This article focuses on how a person can get away with being a deviant by being positive, professional and a peak performer.
* Orbiting The Giant Hairball.
Gordon McKenzie’s famous book shows how people can retain their creativity and make their best contribution to an organisation.