Profound differences

By Suzanne M. Johnson Vickberg and Kim Christfort via hbr.org   Article

Pioneers, Drivers, Integrators, and Guardians

“Some managers just don’t recognize how profound the differences between their people are; others don’t know how to manage the gaps and tensions or understand the costs of not doing so. As a result, some of the best ideas go unheard or unrealized, and performance suffers. …

Each of us is a composite of the four work styles, though most people’s behavior and thinking are closely aligned with one or two. All the styles bring useful perspectives and distinctive approaches to generating ideas, making decisions, and solving problems. Generally speaking:

Pioneers value possibilities, and they spark energy and imagination on their teams. They believe risks are worth taking and that it’s fine to go with your gut. Their focus is big-picture. They’re drawn to bold new ideas and creative approaches.

Guardians value stability, and they bring order and rigor. They’re pragmatic, and they hesitate to embrace risk. Data and facts are baseline requirements for them, and details matter. Guardians think it makes sense to learn from the past.

Drivers value challenge and generate momentum. Getting results and winning count most. Drivers tend to view issues as black-and-white and tackle problems head on, armed with logic and data.

Integrators value connection and draw teams together. Relationships and responsibility to the group are paramount. Integrators tend to believe that most things are relative. They’re diplomatic and focused on gaining consensus.

The four styles give teams a common language for understanding how people work.

Teams that bring these styles together should, in theory, enjoy the many benefits of cognitive diversity, ranging from increased creativity and innovation to improved decision making. Yet time and again, diverse teams fail to thrive—sometimes stagnating, sometimes buckling under the weight of conflict. A first step for leaders hoping to turn that around is to identify the differing styles of their team members and understand what makes each individual tick.

In our work, we’ve clustered thousands of groups by style and asked them to list the things that energize and alienate them in the workplace. The lists vary greatly—what motivates one group can suck the life out of another. … Integrators abhor anything that feels like conflict, but Drivers love to debate. This can create tension and misunderstanding. In one of our lab sessions, a CFO and her team were talking about their executive meetings. One participant, an Integrator, confessed that she dreaded bringing topics up because ‘it always leads to an unpleasant argument.’ The CFO, a Driver, reacted with surprise, saying, ‘But that’s just how we discuss things!’

Differences in how individuals think and contribute can also create problems. For instance, if a Guardian walks through a detailed plan line by line, that may feel like a forced march to a Pioneer, who wants to skip ahead or whiteboard a completely different idea. Conversely, the Pioneer’s riffing about ideas without any agenda or structure may seem like an impractical mess to the organized Guardian.”

 

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