Your Guide to Achieving Employee Greatness- Oscars Style!

The 2016 Oscars were amazing! The night’s winners made us reflect on the hard work and challenges that push people outside of themselves to achieve Greatness. We were all excited about Leo’s win for a role that was completely different from his usual stuff, but that’s what made it so awesome. How do people get to acheive that level of Greatness?

Based on the Insightful TEDTalk : “How frustration can make us more creative” by Tim Harford – the English Journalist explores how, in the workplace and in life, frustration and failure actually lead to amazing outcomes.

He uses the example of how Keith Jarrett, famous Jazz pianist, played one of his most amazing and memorable shows at the Cologne theatre in Germany, with a defective and improperly tuned piano. The struggle he had to play on an instrument that he was not used to (and was essentially not even fit for that theatre) pushed him to create a sound that was not only different- somewhat improvised but shockingly beautiful, leading to the best selling piano album AND jazz album in history. Harford brings up amazing points, mentioning that initially, Keith Jarrett’s reaction was that he DID NOT want to play. “No one wants to be asked to do good work with bad tools. We don’t want to overcome unnecessary hurdles. But Jarrett’s instincts were wrong”.

He talks about “embracing the mess” and, while we are not all professional jazz piano players, we definitely can relate to this concept of being faced with a sticky and sometimes even frustratingly chaotic work problem.

As a manager, you are not there to facilitate your employees problems. Things cannot run smoothly at all times, challenges will arise and you’re purpose is not to protect everyone from a hard time.

Better yet- what if YOU create the mess?! Not to sabotage your employees- but to push them, frustrate them-teach them about their limits. Take them outside of their comfort zone and expose them to a problem that is difficult and requires them to come up with every ounce of creativity they have.

Harford goes further and brings up students who were asked to solve a murder mystery case-either with friends- or in groups with a stranger. Not only did groups with a stranger present present better results- but they had had the most frustrating experience! The most accurate groups with the best results were challenged and filled with doubt and, even when they performed better- did not even feel all that great about it!

Another Oscar worthy mention goes out to the winner of 2014 Whiplash – a story about a young drummer who wants- more than anything- to be “One of the Greats”. His extremely unconventional, passionate and wacky teacher push him past the limits he knows- makes him cry- doubt himself- work and sweat to the bone. “I push people beyond the limits of what is expected of them, I think it’s an absolute necessity” – says the unorthodox band leader- masterfully played by J.K. Simmons.

What does this demonstrate? That pushing ourselves and working very hard amidst all these disruptions help us solve problems and make us more creative- but we don’t particularly feel good about them, we don’t like the challenges and we resist them. This reveals another truth: it’s not because we do not like to do something, that it’s not helping us in the long run.

What’s the worst that could happen to your employees? They fail- they get upset and they learn. What’s the best that could happen? They discover strengths and skills they never knew they had and create something absolutely amazing.

Put this strategy to use and create some chaos for them to solve. It might lead them to the most frustrating and successful project they’ve ever undertaken.