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Adam (not his real name), was not your usual financial services business leader. He wasn’t cut from the same cloth as those normally in his industry. He saw things differently, he was happier taking a risk or two, unselfishly promoted the cause and comfortable with networking and bringing others into his ideas. It was those exact reasons that he’d been hunted by a major financial services institution to head up one of their most important divisions. Sure, he was high qualified, well-educated and had a great track record but the fact that he was different from the rest, was what attracted them to chase him and get him on board.
It wasn’t Adam’s first rodeo. He’d been around the industry and knew that most of his peers were conservative, pragmatic, and at times political who, while being a safe pair of hands were unlikely to create the revolutionary break thoughts that the business needed. He was attracted to the new organisation because of not only what they could offer him, but they were different to him. He was offered a plum division which had been lagging with the opportunity to “change it up”. A great organisation with a great opportunity, what could go wrong?
The early months went well. Adam quickly got into his rhythm and he was well accepted by his team, peers and bosses. He wasn’t sure when the change started to happen, but one day he was no longer the “flavour of the month”. It was hard for him to put his finger on it. It was like others didn’t listen like they use to, they seemed to subtly avoid him, didn’t ask for his advice as often and he wasn’t invited to the meetings where they sorted out the tough problems.
Adam’s first instinct was to double down, work harder, show up more, be more expressive, contact others and just turn up and offer his advice and thoughts. This seemed to only make things worse. He was feeling isolated and that his opinion and insights no longer mattered. “Hadn’t they brought him on the shake things up”? He begun to second guess himself, feeling frustrated he started to wonder if he’d made the right choice in changing companies. Could all this have been a bad decision, should he have stayed where he was, even though he was up for a new challenge? He had a burning desire to make a difference and feel valued, which wasn’t happening, and he grew despondent.
What Adam hadn’t considered was that he’d become too focused on the difference he could make. Sure, he was brought on as a change agent but hadn’t realised that he also needed to remain connected with his team and peers, he had to ensure that his ideas and approaches weren’t to “weird” for the rest of the organisation even though they were working. Adam had become so focused on doing the right thing and creating the change that he wasn’t seeing it was too much for those around him and that they had stopped believing in him.
Here’s the five things that Adam should have considered before “working his magic”
1. Not all diversity and difference is good – he must align with the culture and fit the expectations of those around him.
2. No one likes someone who shows them up – doesn’t matter how effective they are.
3. Being a “weird cat” is fine but being too extreme only leads to others pulling away and isolating you.
4. Ideally, he should have a foot in both camps; one in the current culture and one in what’s possible. It’s his job as a change agent to create non-threatening change for others.
5. How to stop over estimating what he values and sees as success. Getting great results at the cost of isolating others will only guarantee short term success and not being invited to the end of year party!
Adam found it very difficult to slow down but he was able to reconnect with key groups and with the broader business which enabled him to find his tribe. Still today, it’s not easy for him as he rushes ahead to what “could be” but he has learnt to slow down and take others with him and those who work with him have been able to appreciate the difference’s that Adam bring.
What your experience with finding your tribe?