Plays Well With Others — Not!

Is brilliance an excuse for rudeness? It seems easy for the technically gifted to label the inexperienced as inept, to dismiss an alternate perspective as irrelevant, to brand experience as inflexibility, and skoff at other skillsets as unimportant. How many times lately have I heard kumbaya said in a sarcastic tone, deriding teamwork or the process of alignment?

I was told that my generation, the Baby Boomers, were the first to be measured on “plays well with others.” In my native South Carolina (and in many Asian cultures, I’m told), politeness and consideration are a priority. With social skills as core value, how do you approach people who lack those skills? How do you create an environment where the technically brilliant and the socially savvy can coexist, or more importantly, be blindingly successful, as the sum of the parts would dictate?

It can be done. It’s simple, really. Tolerance and grace are the most basic social skills. Just add self-confidence, or as Dr. Wayne Dyer would put it, remember that what others think of you is none of your business.

It is easy to dismiss that genius as socially inept, their rudely stated perspective as irrelevant, their certainty as inflexiblity, and their brilliance as unimportant to the team’s success – but how ironic is that?

That genius may not understand the value that you bring to the overall endeavor. Their impatience and tactless comments may try your patience, and send you reaching for swear words, alcohol, or divine entreaties not typically part of your persona.

But the technical product of that genius will need to be surrounded by other kinds of talent to achieve success. And with technical genius at the core, the success can be phenomenal. I would assert that as the project runs its course, the genius will come to appreciate the other talent, and some level of mutual tolerance and respect will prevail.

And then it will be time to hire the next batch of talent. Don’t be afraid to hire the next technical genius. Just remember to hire the socially savvy rock stars to go with them.

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