I was thinking the other day about a company I worked for many years ago. A lot of scientists and technical people roamed the halls and solved important puzzles. Many of those people had no inclination, however, to lead. They enjoyed their science and preferred to leave the management of people to others. Yet they still wanted to enjoy the rewards of promotion-more money, recognition for their contributions, and the other intangible perks that come from being knows as a valuable player. I remember the company coming up with what at that time was a fairly unconventional concept-promoting these workers in a way that excused them from leading people and becoming managers so that they could focus on the technical issues of the day.
Now I understand that the two-managing projects and managing people are not mutually exclusive and that people do both all the time. But there are still those who cringe at the thought of making time to conduct performance reviews when they could be glued to something more pressing like solving a major software glitch or coming up with the latest slogan for a new product.
So what do you do with these renegades who don´t want to necessarily be leaders of people yet also want to move ahead and rise up through the ranks? Maybe you offer a compromise, a system by which these techno-creative types can demonstrate their abilities to manage an organization while maintaining interest in and control over their projects. Perhaps you can pair them up with those who do crave the management limelight, the ones who prefer to engage in big-picture analyses and have an ability to project a company´s requirements for successful growth.
The slogan for the United Negro College Fund, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste," has been around in use for over 30 years, and I suspect that its staying power has a lot to do with the notion that many minds are, in fact, wasted, because of missed opportunities, lack of funds, and a whole host of other unfortunate circumstances. Yet there are so many ways to prevent that from happening, especially inside corporate and entrepreneurial America. We focus a lot on the product-developing it, manufacturing it, distributing it, and making as much money off of it as possible. Perhaps if we add to that focus where the idea for the product came from in the first place. Maybe then a company´s brain trust would be at the top of the list.