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Why knowing your team’s ‘Working Genius’ will lead your business to growth

Every human being is unique, with their natural gifts.  The way we think, act and feel are individual to each of us.  And yet, when it comes to our relationships, we expect people to react the same way as we do. 

Nowhere is this more evident than at work. We get up in the morning, look in the mirror and think everyone’s the same as us.  By lunchtime, we feel we’re surrounded by an office full of idiots!  Because we expect people to think, say and do as we do. 

The fact is, business is a team sport.  There are different roles – goalkeeper, left-back, centre forward or coach.  So you need a diverse blend of skills. 

So far, so obvious.  It may be easy to measure the hard skills or experience people bring, but how do you measure each person’s natural gifts?  Maybe you’ve used Myers-Briggs in the past.  This can be helpful to give you a handle on types of personality, but once you have this information, how do you use it? 

Our suggestion is a new tool, ‘Working Genius’, that we’ve used consistently since its launch.  We were the first coaching business to gain this certification in the world.  It’s perfect for growing companies.  Here’s why.

What is ‘Working Genius’?

Working Genius came out of the work that Patrick Lencioni and his Table Group colleagues were doing building high-performing teams.   

Patrick Lencioni wanted a tool with more utility than Myers-Briggs – something that would help growing businesses understand the unique set of geniuses in their teams. Because whether it’s innovation, execution or strategy, teams will always do better by coming together than individuals. 

Teamwork is where competitive advantage gets created.  And teams will always be more successful if they’re playing to their strengths.  This is where businesses can create some differentiation.

Working Genius is simpler than Myers-Briggs or Gallup Strengths.  It takes 10 minutes to fill out, moving participants through a survey and providing detailed insights about areas of working genius, working competency and working frustrations.

The 6 types of Working Genius

Patrick Lencioni looked at the things that needed to happen for a work product to be created.  He abbreviated the six phases of this into the word ‘WIDGET’ to signify the 6 types of working genius. 

Genius of Wonder

Firstly there needs to be someone with the genius of Wonder.  A person who says, ‘What if we did this?’ They wonder what a change in the status quo might look like.

Genius of Invention

To make progress on that thought, someone needs the working genius of Invention to come up with the idea. 

Genius of Discernment

Then comes the genius of Discernment – are the inventions or ideas good enough to warrant progress?  

Genius of Galvanizing

Following this, someone needs the genius of Galvanizing – to get the team on board and excited about the idea. 

Genius of Enablement

Moving on to the genius of Enablement piece where resources are gathered together.

Genius of Tenacity

Finally, the genius of Tenacity to finish this off. 

Without people who are naturally gifted in two of these areas, Patrick Lencioni contests that teams can grind to a halt.  The first two, the geniuses of Wonder and Invention, group into Ideation, the second two, the geniuses of Discernment and Galvanising, group into Activation and the final two of the working genius model, Enablement and Tenacity, fall into Implementation.

Getting people in the right roles

Working Genius will give you a unique handle on whether you have the right blend of people on your team and whether your expectations of them are reasonable. 

Of the six geniuses, each person has two that are their genius (giving them energy and joy), two which are their competency (ie they can do these things if they put their mind to it) and two that are their frustration (things that are really hard).

I often refer to my own team when I’m explaining this to clients.  I’m thinking, ‘If I was Carlos and I was doing Carlos’ job, I would be constantly innovating and changing how he does that.’ And I ask myself, ‘Why doesn’t he do that?’ Well – I’m not Carlos and the sooner I realise that, the better!  He brings different geniuses to mine. 

The thing that gives me joy is Invention and Discernment.  I’m never happier than when I’m coming up with new ideas. Carlos doesn’t have Invention.  He has Discernment and Enablement. So he can tell me whether my idea’s good but he won’t have them himself.   So I need to stop judging him based on my own filters. And he needs to stop feeling guilty that he doesn’t come up with ideas. 

In the past, some of our clients have had Sales Directors that came into their organisation as implementors.  They took the existing sales organisation and made it run like clockwork. But when the market shifted, they needed a new sales model.  The leadership team looked to their Sales Director, saying, ‘Come on then – let’s have it’.  But that wasn’t their genius.  Someone else in the team needed to step forward to help them with ideation.   

 Filling gaps in teams

The beauty of Working Genius is it allows you to spot where you have skills gaps in teams.  One of our clients springs to mind here.  They had two teams that we coached.  Both felt similar, but one took twice as long to complete an exercise as the other.  We thought maybe it had something to do with meeting on Zoom versus being in person.  But when we changed our approach, it made little difference. 

Around about this time, we heard that Working Genius was in its beta phase so decided to test it out.  We got both teams to take the survey.  The slower team all had Discernment as a working genius.  So every member of the team felt they needed to have their say on every idea.  The other team were more balanced with a mix of some ideation, some activation and some implementation.  This information told our client that they needed a broader mix of people on the other team.

Understanding your own talents (and frustrations)

If Ideation, Activation and Tenacity don’t exist in a team, it can lead to guilt and judgement.  People don’t understand why they’re not making progress and get frustrated because other people aren’t doing a job the way they would do it. 

Most managers get promoted because they’re experts in something.  They ask questions to which they already know the answer.  And when they allocate tasks or push work down, they’re not outcome-focused.  They’re more focused on activity. 

When something doesn’t turn out the way they expected, it leads to judgement and guilt.  ‘You didn’t do it the right way’ or ‘That’s not how I would have done it’ they tend to say. 

However, by using Working Genius, you’ll start to understand the blend of gifts in a team and then work out the role that these gifts enable someone to play.

People often say, what should I do about my working frustration? The aim should be to manage and mitigate these as much as possible. Patrick Lencioni has written 12 books, but Enablement and Tenacity are his frustrations. So he has to lock himself in a hotel to write a new book. A frustration doesn’t mean you can’t do something. But it’s much harder than a working genius.

Maximising productivity and happiness

By getting your people into roles that play to their areas of Working Genius, you’ll naturally increase their productivity and happiness levels.  How many times have you been in jobs where you wished you could do more of X, less of Y and absolutely none of Z?  Most likely you shrug it off and do it all the same.  It’s work, it’s hard but that’s what you’re paid for. 

But if people could focus most of their time on things they’re naturally good at and get joy from, then they’ll be more driven.  And their productivity levels will rocket. Patrick Lencioni realised this. If people’s talents are balanced by different geniuses on a team and, crucially, everyone in the team understands these, there’s real potential for collective success. 

By removing the usual guilt and judgement from the workplace, people can see each other properly.  This builds vulnerability-based trust that’s essential in high performing teams.

Clarity on meeting structure

People with geniuses of Wonder and Invention are comfortable operating at 30,000 feet whereas those with Enablement and Tenacity like to be much closer to the ground.  They get dopamine hits from different things.  Armed with this knowledge, you can carefully plan who attends which meetings.  If you’re talking about strategy or major change, you need people with Ideation.  But a focus on planning and execution won’t work for these people. Here you need Enablement and Tenacity

This avoids the common frustration of sitting in a meeting and feeling bored or frustrated. 

Diagnosing where you’re stuck

Working Genius will help you diagnose where you might be stuck.  If there’s no genius of Invention, you’ll have no ideas.  Your team will be executing the same thing over and over again without any improvement.  If that’s the case, you can look for other ways to make ideas happen.  Could a different team take this over?  What might you need to change in the existing team? 

Could you generate ideas for change from a customer group?  If there’s no genius of galvanizing on the team, people will have an idea but then send an email out to the rest of the company and wonder why nothing happens.  So you could put in different support to this team by predicting the outcome.

Using Working Genius in recruitment

We’re so impressed with Working Genius that we’ve started to suggest clients use it as part of their recruitment.  It gives them an expectation of what they need to look for in applicants. 

Here’s an example.  We’ve been talking to a client today who’s going through a business model transition and needs to hire a new Head of Marketing and Head of Sales.  They’ve realised they need to hire people with Invention and Discernment to help them with change.  They’re short of ideas in the Executive Team and nothing will change if they bring in execution experts. This is the clarity that will help them achieve their ambitious scaling up goals.

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Written by business growth coach Dominic Monkhouse. Find out more about his work here. Read his book, ‘F**k Plan B’ here.

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