Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke


Leading Baby Tigers

Volume: June 2019

Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay once said “Every business has a baby tiger.” What she meant by this statement is that most businesses have at least one, ultra-talented employee who moves to the beat of their own drummer. These baby tigers are, in a business sense, wild. They crush the spirit of their peers because they do not even try to play nice in the sandbox. They feel that their talent and accomplishments overshadow others in the organization. Their viewpoint is “org chart be darned, I report to the president.” C’mon, you know someone like this, don’t you? Most of us have experienced the splendor of collaborating with a baby tiger at some point in our career.  
Most leaders view their baby tiger as a rogue team member who needs to be tamed. Changing baby tigers is rarely successful and typically ends badly – they either leave the company which ends up hurting your bottom line, or they stay, pout, and stop being productive. So, what is a leader to do with these beasts? The answer lies with attempting to place your baby tiger in a position in which they can thrive. What I mean is this: think strategically about your baby tiger and seek to position them in one of three ways.
The first strategy is to make your baby tiger a sole-producer and isolate them from others in the organization. Surprisingly, baby tigers are passionate about the end game (i.e., the finished product, serving the customer, creating things, etc.). As such, you can have them interact with other people, just not the people within your organization. Oh, and be certain to have your baby tiger report to the president or someone who has authority in the organization. This will appeal to their highly developed sense of self-worth. The problems this creates with other team members will be covered in future newsletters.

The second strategy is to partner them with a team member who has off-the-charts good emotional intelligence. In other words, a baby tiger whisperer. You know, that high-flyer in your organization that seems to get along with everyone. While their amiability will be challenged by getting along with a baby tiger, they may end up serving as just the right buffer between the broader workgroup and your renegade. When this strategy is successful, everyone grows in the process and the bottom line is maximized.
The third strategy is to jettison your baby tiger.  If your stomach or your team is turning sour due to the tumult caused by your baby tiger, relieve yourself of the discomfort, and the tiger of their duties. In sum, tell your baby tiger to find a different jungle in which to create chaos. What you lose in productivity, you will gain in solace, team harmony, and focus.  
Bottom LineLeaders impact culture®. In the process, leaders help to structure a workforce that delivers optimal results in a rapidly changing marketplace. If you can strategically position a baby tiger so that they enhance your organization, do so and be creative in the process. If they are just too wild and wooly for your corporate culture, recognize it early on and cut ties. And remember, when it comes to baby tigers doing nothing is not an option.
Until next time, be well.

Doug Van Dyke is a Tampa Bay based executive coach, leadership development expert, and strategic planner. To learn more about leadership development programs, coaching, strategic planning, and consulting services, visit www.leadershipsimplified.com or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
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