John Borrowman, CPC
Borrowman Baker LLC

Franklin, TN

Most practices have them.  Talent who habitually punch above their weight.  Maybe you have several.  Maybe only a handful.

Understanding them, and leading them so they maximize their potential and their value to your organization, is no small task.

Despite the recent economic conditions, and their impact on the employment market, talent who truly make a strong contribution remain at a premium.  If you have them, you know the difference they can make to your practice.

In a Harvard Business Review article, authors Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones originally labeled these individuals “clever people”; not in the sense of overly smart and difficult, but being skilled and talented.  In their follow-up book dealing with this unique star performer, they assemble research and real-life examples into an explanation of how and why “clevers” operate the way they do and how you can lead these best and brightest effectively.

Surprisingly, perhaps, these performers aren’t necessarily defined by their IQ or their academic credentials.  Nor are they “free-agent” types who create value on their own.  Goffee and Jones point out that they are highly talented, extraordinary thinkers who actually need their organizations’ resources to fulfill their potential.  In a reverse twist on the typical approach of making the employees more valuable to the organization, “Clever” focuses on making the organization more valuable to clever people.

Having an organization full of “clevers” isn’t necessarily the answer. (Enron; see also)  Fortunately, the authors have plenty of guidance for what works and what doesn’t work:

Tell them what to do – not how to do it

Earn their respect with your expertise – not your job title

Sense their needs and keep them motivated

Convince them your company can help them succeed

That last point seems easier said than done, of course.  But, in the same way that preparing a presentation can strengthen you as a professional, learning and practicing what it takes to lead the “clevers” in your organization can make you a better leader, overall.

Clever” is a quick and absorbing read.  A different perspective on the leadership challenge you face.

Clever” is published by Harvard Business Press and is available through most on-line book sellers.

John Borrowman