How to Manage Highly Motivated, Stupid Employees


“Stupid is as stupid does” – Forrest Gump.
The meaning: a person is judged to be stupid by the stupid behaviours s/he exhibits.
Human principle: Occasionally doing a stupid thing does not make one stupid, simply human.
The Problem: Highly Motivated Stupid People (HMSP) talk, act on and argue their case while discounting any conflicting data or feedback. They are only interested in achieving their agenda, however ill-fated. There is no possibility of dealing with an HMSP with logic.
Cost of ignoring the problem: Manager loses respect of motivated, competent people.
Organizational Impacts: Others, upon hearing the “out-of-context,” looking for an easy solution, jump on the “stupid train.”
Brutal Fact: You cannot lead a highly motivated, stupid person (HMSP) because leadership requires followership. A highly motivated, stupid person will not be influenced, so they must be “tough managed.”
First the manager has to recognize the faces of stupidity:

    <ul> 
     <li>Category #1: People who don't know, who have a genuine lack of knowledge. This can be any one of us. Stupidity is situational and easily correctable.</li> 
     <li>Category #2: People who know they don't know, but push forward with their agenda anyway because of image or power-mongering motives. Many politicians and executives.</li> 
     <li>Category #3: People who, when confronted with well-founded facts and arguments say, "I don't care what you say..." then proceed to make preventable mistakes. i.e. Driving while drunk.</li> 
     <li>Category #4: People who believe they know, based on <em>"In my experience..."</em> Someone who continues to do things based on unsuccessful attempts but keep doing them believing it will work.</li> 
     <li>Category #5: People who are convinced they have the solution but have not consulted with, or taken in feedback from other customers, stakeholders or the people who actually do the thing that need fixing. Most upper management. Many people seen on the "Dragons' Den" TV show. Some executive teams.</li> 
     <li>Category #6: People who are raring to tell you how YOU should be doing things, even though they've never done it themselves. i.e. People who do marriage counselling who have never been married themselves. Many business consultants who have never run a business themselves.</li> 
     <li>Category #7: People who offer advice, but they themselves don't practice what they preach. i.e. Physicians who smoke. Managers who do not update their competencies.</li> 
     <li>Category #8: These are people who are so detached from reality that they perceived themselves as experts and are convinced they know what they're talking about. When employees get together and talk about the stupidity of upper management, those employees are in this category because they just don't know. Problem is, upper management has stupidly "stupified" the employees by not keeping them adequately informed. If nature abhors a vacuum, stupidity blossoms in one.</li> 
    </ul>

    A stupid person will convince themselves - and try to convince others - that it is OK to jump off the roof of an 30 story building to experience the sensation of flying. A stupid person conveniently ignores the consequences of the sudden consequences of gravity.
    So how does a manager deal with highly motivated, stupid people (exempting Category #1):
    <strong>1. Punish the stupid behaviours not the person.</strong> The punishment needs to be felt fairly intense. Stupid people have strong defences.
    <strong>2. Dish it out promptly.</strong> The person has to connect the punishment to the behaviour. The mind has to make the connection. Watch the TV show Super Nanny on how to do this effectively
    <strong>3. Consistently punish the stupid behaviours.</strong> It takes 7 times with 7 repetitions backed up with corrective feedback each time to learn something new or change an ineffective set of behaviours. One the biggest error managers make is thinking that once is enough. It isn't.
    <strong>4. Do not associate punishment with positive re-enforcement.</strong> âEUR¨When a negatively felt consequence is associated with a perceived reward, the behaviour will continue rather than cease. Some employees will use the punishment meted out by the manager in order to gain more power. This is often seen in union situations and executive teams bloated with hubris.
    <strong> 5. The punishment should not result in escaping or avoidance behaviours</strong>. One of the most ridiculous punishments in school is to suspend the student for 3-4 days. Basically its an approved holiday for the student (and perhaps for the teacher, which may be why they do it.).
    <strong>6.</strong> Having outlined all of the above, <strong>the manager, must develop and act on the belief that people have a deep desire to feel smart, accomplished, successful and competent.</strong>
    Herb Kelleher, the retired chairman of Southwest Airlines exemplified that belief. This is what his pilots said to him upon his retirement:
    <em>"As you step down from the SWA Board of Directors, the pilots of Southwest Airlines would like to thank you, Herb, for 38 years of positively outrageous service to our Company and our pilots. It has been an honor and a privilege."</em>
    Southwest Airlines has created a smart culture that encourages people to do smart things for fun and profit.
    <p>Smart is as smart does.</p> 

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