I read an article yesterday about a creative company undergoing serious, unplanned change. One of the changes was a reduction in manpower prompting one of the senior managers to declare “we have to learn how to force the square pegs into the round holes”. This might be defined as conventional thinking. However, the premise seemed to be the exact wrong approach from a management point of view. If ever there was a time to embrace the square pegs and give them an opportunity to shine the impending staff reduction appeared to me to be a perfect moment.

Square pegs suffer in business on a number of fronts:
– businesses are reluctant to hire them
– once hired many firms attempt to force them into round holes which often results in either poor performance or a resignation from the company, or both
– many managers complain they don’t have sufficient management time for the square pegs; they require an unfair per cent of management attention
– many managers are reluctant to consider alternative ways of doing things which is often the product of the square pegs

In an earlier blog I noted 6 Steps for effectively managing the square pegs. I’d like to highlight two of those steps. First, everyone in a firm, including the square pegs should share the same objectives. Once that is accomplished a manager is then free to pursue alternative paths to achieve the objectives. This is often where the square pegs excel. A new path may not only help achieve objectives but may assist in exceeding objectives. The square peg can contribute if the manager is open to new ideas provided the goal is to reach the shared objective. Forcing a square peg into a round hole is not a prerequisite to reaching every objective.

Second, there must a good deal of Trust within a team or firm. When people believe they are trusted they have the freedom to not only perform but to excel. DDB, an excellent ad agency network has as one of their 4 Freedoms: Freedom From Fear. Freedom from fear is another way of indicating trust. Using the square pegs as the example, if they believe they are trusted they will often produce superb work that is frequently unexpected or different from the norm. It’s one reason why DDB wins so many awards.

Thus, a good manager does not have to force his company’s square pegs into a round hole in order to achieve objective. My experience in the advertising industry provided me with ample proof of this management position. It has led me to work on a book about the management of square pegs. And let’s be clear: not every square peg is worth the management time nor consistently provides superlative work. But many do. The ability to embrace the square pegs can lead to great work and great results.

In many businesses a better job by management of integrating the square pegs and properly managing them would produce better results for the company.

If you have a square peg experience, whether you were the square peg or the manager please contact me at: joecronin@theoryyou.com with your story.