The Rebel Talent [Session Summary]


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The following article is a short summary of a presentation at The CHRO Virtual Summit by Francesca Gino, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and author of The Rebel Talent.

Francesca Gino, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and author of The Rebel Talent recently spoke at The CHRO Virtual Summit on May 29th. In her presentation, she suggests that HR leaders need to fundamentally shift the way that they think about rebels and being a rebel in the workplace. We tend to think of rebels as the outcasts, the troublemakers, the show-offs, the jerks, and the annoying ones who make our lives more difficult and who jeopardize our work. What Gino argues for however, is an alternate image of rebels, as “people who are capable of coming up with creative solutions in the moment, when others would instead tend to follow a script”. She summarizes that effective rebels; break away from rules, come up with creative solutions, and focus on making the customer/stakeholder happy. This isn’t to suggest that real troublemakers don’t exist – but that in many situations, some other potentially valuable forces may be at hand.

So, what can we learn from these types of rebels, and why are they special? Gino suggests that rebels are the type of people who will jump into a situation to help others out, even if that means making themselves vulnerable by showing some kind of weakness. Instead of this being seen as a flaw or a negative, people tend to show more respect for someone who reveals their flaws and acts in what could be considered an authentic and agreeable manner. Another characteristic of effective rebels is the ability to inject novelty into their work. The logic here is that rebels feel fine with being uncomfortable and challenged, because they tend to re-frame issues towards their strengths. Gino argues that we should focus on our strengths more often and agonize less over our weaknesses, as it gives us energy at work and a sense of authenticity.

When it comes to leadership, Gino presents that rebel leaders are those who give people a license to be authentic and present their ideas regardless of their standing in the organization. Rebel leaders have the conscious ability to open avenues dialogue that may seem superfluous at first, but also possess the presence of mind to view accidents and failures as opportunities and sources of inspiration. They have an alternative manner of understanding how meaning can be created from chaos, and undertake their everyday activities with a sense of open minded novelty. Because rebel leaders tend to act with authenticity and provide the means for their employees to also act as their authentic selves, employees therefore are more likely to persist and perform better under duress. This would probably have a beneficial impact on employee experience practices, as it promotes personal responsibility, creativeness, and rewards having an engaging personality over blind process adherence.

But how do you actually become more of a rebel? To this end, Gino suggests a few small, practical first steps. You can begin to use your talents more often at work and personal life by asking more simple questions. By approaching tasks with an open mind and injecting a sense of novelty into the every-day, it’s possible to re-frame the way in which you interact with the world. Being a rebel doesn’t have to mean doing away with tradition, processes and form – it means adapting the external with the internal uniqueness that each person possesses. HR leaders have a platform to enable more rebellious acts within their organizations – starting with them first – and then with the people they desire to have as employees.

If you missed Francesca’s presentation (or indeed any others), you can sign up on The CHRO Virtual Summit website for free and view it until June 30th!

The 3rd HR Congress Brussels, November 27-28 will feature a selection of sessions that will explore this topic and much more! Make sure you follow The HR Congress Blog and #HRCongress18 to stay posted on all the latest news, updates and content from the world of work!

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