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Emergency Intervention: The Last Hope for a Toxic Genius


My clients are incredibly talented. They are a wealth of information and experience in their fields. They're

well educated and creative. They add value to any company they work with. And they are extremely hard to work with.

Almost a year ago, Uber board member Arianna Huffington made a pointed statement in the wake of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick's messy departure from the company. "No more brilliant jerks." No more talented assholes. No more toxic geniuses. Adding value to a company is not an excuse to behave badly. But is firing a worker always the best option? Is there another way to keep the talent but stop the bad behavior?

Emergency intervention is a short but intensive process of assessment, feedback, and coaching that is designed to shock a brilliant jerk into awareness of how unproductive their behaviors are, then to give them better options. The process is not comfortable or easy, but the majority of toxic geniuses respond positively to the process. Their goals are usually to create effective working environments and to be satisfied with their jobs, but they lack the skills to create effectiveness and satisfaction.

When is emergency intervention needed?

1) When a leader or team member has skills and organizational knowledge that can't be easily replaced.

2) When a leader or team member's behavior is causing discord, detachment, and attrition in their team or organization.

3) When mentoring, development workshops, performance improvement plans, and HR intervention have not worked.

4) When the next step is a pink slip.

The process of emergency intervention should be a last resort. It is important that the leader or team member knows that the next step is removal from their position or the organization. When the leader undertands that they are valued enough to warrant this kind of intervention, but their behavior is serious enough that they will be fired if they do not change, there is finally an opportunity for growth.

**Erika Weed is a doctoral candidate at The George Washington University, studying leadership and trying to reconcile the seemingly competing goals of happiness and success, for herself and others.

#ErikaWeed #coaching #leaderdevelopment #organizationaldevelopment #emergencyintervention #toxicleadership

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