The Empty Suit a.k.a. The Innovation Killer

There’s a particular employee persona that in my belief poses one of the greatest threats to innovation. They are eloquent and persuasive but pay attention long enough and you’ll begin to notice a lack of depth or substance to anything they’re saying. Oftentimes being a “remix” of someone else’s idea wrapped in a buzzword sandwich. They are the smooth talkers whose delivery style is designed to mask the void of meaningful content.

The Empty Suit

Empty suits often excel in the art of buzzwords, appear easy-going, and can navigate organizational politics with superhero levels of adeptness. However, beneath this is a lack of knowledge, experiential insights, and often, any genuine motivation to drive organizational growth.

We find ourselves bewitched by these individuals because they’re able to articulate ideas with precision and charm.

We mistake eloquence for expertise.

Empty suits are dangerous because their influence can lead to misguided decisions and misaligned strategies. Decision-making processes are impacted which leads to confusion and takes orgs down paths that are unsustainable or worse, detrimental.

The Way Forward

For starters, skill-based hiring is vital in countering “empty suit” syndrome. Soft skills are important, but equally important is ensuring the people (especially your people leaders) are capable of performing the jobs they’ve been hired to perform. Perception IS NOT everything. The most loved can be the most destructive to your bottom line. I speak from experience, learn from my pain. It is critical to counter the shallowness of the ‘corporate confidence man’ by being able to notice the difference between competence and the “appearance of competence”.

We can then, and only then, move from an environment driven by superficiality to one of substance.