Why your Team needs a Non Conformist

 In Blogs

I have been working recently on pulling together a brilliant new people strategy for a really exciting company.  I worked with a super talented HR professional who very kindly posted a LinkedIn recommendation about little old me.  The testimonial read, “Ruth is a very quirky and interesting character to work with and an absolute breath of fresh air!”

‘Gosh,’ I thought, people will think I am a non conformist”!

I mentioned this to the lovely Mr. Gawthorpe who pointed out that I don’t always follow the crowd.  He called me authentic – predictably so he added!

It reminded me of an interesting study I had read a while back.  Carried out in the UK by the University of East Anglia in 2011, it’s findings surprised the researchers, Psychologist Dr Piers Fleming and economist Prof Daniel Zizzo.   Click here to read the article.

Still a great read today, it suggests that people who do not conform are the ones most likely to work together for the greater good, while conforming to social norms can actually make people less likely to co-operate.

Go your own way

At the heart of their findings is that fact that conformity does not necessarily lead to co-operation.  Indeed, they say it may lead to workers taking their cue from less helpful members or even cynical people on the team.  We can all recall examples of this in workplaces or education where, in order to fit in, people adopted similar beliefs and behaviours, without necessarily challenging whether this was for the greater good of the group or organisation.

Whereas, someone who is less concerned with being socially acceptable or just happy to forge his own path might ignore what others on the team are doing and press on toward success, setting a better example for others to follow. These people tend to choose their own attitude to life.

And I am not suggesting that we non-conformists can go around causing chaos …….do what we want!  We have to adhere to the laws of the land, the workplace policies and be empathetic, thoughtful and caring too.  There is a balance to be had and it’s sensible to enable non-conformists to question the norms at work, at home and in society – but it’s a sort of well-behaved challenge!

It’s not just about conformity and non-conformity.

In my experience of managing teams there are three rules of thumb to consider if you want to win the hearts and minds of your people.

  1. Allow people to be themselves at work
  2. Let them know what’s happening in the organisation
  3. Get them involved in planning the future

In turn, if a leader recognises individual authenticity it has a knock on effect in the workplace as a whole – from hiring people for their diverse skills, life experience and opinions, through designing HR services and tools that match those differences to subtly shifting the way that we manage a diverse set of characters..

Let’s face it – we’re all different

It also begs questions of those old-fashioned annual appraisal systems and staff surveys. It makes a mockery of stuff like 360-degree appraisal and even standard benefits packages.

Honestly, tell me which employee wants to work for a company who insists on giving them a performance rating of 3 when they have hit their objectives?  Even more worrying, what sort of business wants to employ a bunch of ‘3 rated” people just so they achieve the bell curve?  What sort of signal are leaders sending to those individuals who work for them when they say, “You’re a 3 – that’s the norm around here”?

I’m Me – with talent

Society tries to categorise us: Millenials, Zillenials, Baby Boomers, Generation X, the Me Generation – the list will go on.  Millenials, they say, are more open to change than preceding generations but ask yourself, are they really more open to change than the so called ‘Great Generation’ who laid their lives on the line in the second world war?

While all generations have similarities, they are still a diverse bunch – whatever age we were born into, we’re all unique and we respond better when we are allowed to be ourselves.

Once leaders understand that people want to be celebrated for their unique make up they begin to think about how different types of people want to be communicated with and how individuals prefer to express opinions.

Putting ourselves in other people shoes.

It’s time to look at the conformists, the non-conformists, those who are rated 1, 2 and 3, the social butterflies and the quiet, thoughtful ones amongst us through an entirely new lens.  Celebrate and use their diverse views on life to your business advantage.  If you do, you will make your workforce feel wanted and, trust me, that’s the start of winning hearts and minds.

Meanwhile, I’ve decided that lovely testimonial was spot on.  I am quirky! A bit of a non conformist.  I look at things differently to a lot of other people and I question the norm.

You do too.  Be proud of that!

Ruth Gawthorpe is the owner of The Change Directors and knows just what it takes to win the hearts and minds of your workforce.  Call her for a chat about how you can update your annual performance appraisal so that it provides purpose and motivation to your employees.  Call 07976 509551 now.

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