There is a story, most probably apocryphal, about a famous research institution in Yorktown Heights, New York, USA. One of the labs in the institution was headed by a manager who was not a scientist himself. All the scientists in the lab working under his direction, more than a hundred of them, were Nobel laureates or near Nobel laureates. One day a reporter asked our manager, “What do you do in the midst of such celebrities? How do you manage them?”
Well, how would you, if you were him?
“I get them all coffees in the morning. That’s how I manage them.” Well, the first trick in managing high-power teams is to recognise that the team members normally abide by their own rules. They have to be given the space to let their imagination run wild; take risks; experiment and fail. This is the secret to their effectiveness. Of course, sometimes they need a small nudge so that they don’t go off wildly in all directions.Another trick is to know how to manage the ‘attitudes’ of these high performers. So, sometimes the manager has to insist on discipline. It is important that these high performers know that there are some policies in the organisation that need to be followed. This includes respect for the manager and other employees.The other trick is to pay tribute to these high-performers. Let them know that their contribution is vital for the organisation, whether or not they win the Nobel prize.Of course, one key thing is to strike the right balance between creativity and discipline. Nowhere is the old saying ‘The looser the hold, the firmer the grip’ more germane than in such an environment.