Cheats and Crooks and Creeps. Oh my!

Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore. The moral compass that Auntie Em and Uncle Henry provided has been spun through the eye of the tornado and it has lost its direction.

I just read that McKinsey, one of the most prestigious consulting companies in the world, has instituted a new set of rules to prevent another ‘incident.’ That’s my mild-mannered way of saying that two senior leaders in the firm had been caught in a high-stakes game of insider trading. As a result, the new Global Managing Director has decided that McKinsey’s 87-year tradition of individual and corporate integrity wasn’t working anymore, and needed shoring-up by stringent directives and compliance testing.

Apparently rebellion is afoot at McKinsey. Against what rules, I don’t know. After all, I’m not an insider. But as a mom as well as a CEO, I have some advice to offer to the rule-makers.

What you’re doing is obviously needed, but it seems that some of your insiders have said the changes create a ‘nanny-state.’ They seem to feel that they have been thrust back into kindergarten.

Maybe they should be. It’s the place where, if mom and dad haven’t drilled it into you yet, you learn the basics of ‘working and playing well with others’ (as it was described on mid-20th century report cards.)

Perhaps I can offer a way to underscore that lengthy, detailed document that everyone is now required to sign. Here’s what I’d do. I’d keep it simple, and deliver it with my best attempt to mimic a 1940’s military drill sergeant. Here’s my rap:

Listen up! This is the stuff that you should have learned a long time ago.

1. Don’t take other kid’s toys without asking. (The corporate behavior code probably refers to this in a few places. Padding your expense account may not seem like outright theft but it is.)

2. Don’t sneak a peek at other kids’ cards. Really? Even if they aren’t too careful about protecting them? Damn right! (Consider swapping ‘Inside info’ for a more accurate phrase: Trusted confidential material. If you have access to sensitive matters and can’t keep a secret, you belong on the outside, looking for a new job.)

3. Don’t be a bully. And don’t make excuses for bully behavior. (You know what I mean. The greater your position of power, the greater your responsibility to ensure that the rules are fair and the playground is level.)

Violate any of these and you are at best a creep, and at worst a cheat or a crook; or maybe even all three.

This post originally appeared on Innovation America.

You want ‘Team Chemistry’? Start with Biology and Physics!

Forbes’ publisher Rich Karlgaard drew a line in the sand when he launched an article entitled Teams Matter, Talent Is Not Enough. And then along came the brilliant research of Adam Grant, set forth in his NY Times best-seller Give and Take. Dr. Grant proved that, contrary to a particularly nasty old adage, nice people frequently finish first.

I see these two writings (and waves of commentary along the same lines) as the beginning of the end of the ‘hire-only-the-best-and-brightest’ era. For the longest time, hiring has been all about talents, traits, skills, education, and experience. Now, we’re returning to a more complex and enlightened place in which the way a person ‘teams’ is gaining attention and awareness for its critical value.

People speak wistfully about ‘team spirit’, as if it were a kind of magic spell that could be cast by only the most enlightened of leaders or coaches. Now the phrase ‘team chemistry’ is coming back into vogue, and that’s a lot closer to the truth. Teamwork does indeed embody chemistry.

Not ‘I like you” chemistry. Real hard-science chemistry, and biology, and physics.

Biology has given you some inborn drives. One of them drives you to learn and master your world. Another drives you to connect with other people. Put the two together and you get the basic reason humans form teams. Including, by the way, that most basic of teams: the twosome.

Physics, which is essentially the science of how stuff works, explains a lot about the way to build a physical structure (or infrastructure) that won’t collapse when an earthquake or tornado hits. Think of what that takes. Strong parts connect with other strong parts in a very strong way. (Okay, that won’t get you an engineering degree, but it’s at the core of building anything complex. And you can’t have a team with just one person, right? You’ve got the drift, right?)

For the moment, let’s just focus in on that ‘very strong connect’ part. In human beings, that’s called interdependency. It’s what causes us to lean on each other and not topple over when bad things happen – like economic tremors causing our employer’s ‘Richter scale’ to register above 4.5.

So, just to review before we get to the midterms…

We have people with fundamental biological drives, which vary. (We can measure that variance, thanks to a new ‘team science’ that applies to any team in any kind of organization.)  And these drives operate within the framework of a team, and fundamental elements of teamwork, which follow the rules of physics.

Now we’re ready to tackle chemistry.

Even if high school or college chemistry is just a faded memory for you, you might be familiar with the principal of valence, aka covalent bonding. Or (depending on when you went to school) molecular orbital theory, which begat modern valence bond theory. No matter the name, or the level of detail in scientifically explaining how atoms form molecules, valence is about attraction. The most important thing you need to know about attraction between two entities is that it happens because there are physical forces that come into play to balance out an unstable imbalance. This creates ‘completeness.’

When you understand the teaming energy that is inherent in each person on the team, then you can predict how they will handle adversity, change, or just plain old stress. You can also predict the focus and drive they will apply to the fulfillment of a team mission. In the language of Teamability® these attributes are called ‘Role’.

Ready for team chemistry? Here’s the formula:

In humans, ‘completeness’ happens on a team after you get the right biology, e.g., people motivated to do something big with a team, into the right physical configuration.

Since each Role exhibits a complementary (balancing and energizing) influence on one other Role, add only the Roles that are most appropriate to the team’s mission, and introduce them all to each other so that each can find their ‘Role-pair’.

Then step back and watch the sparks fly!

Do it for the Team

To my parents, who were the children of immigrants, the idea that work should be meaningful was self-indulgent. They considered work to be a matter of tribal survival, to wit: You work hard. You provide for your family. You support your community. You put things off for the future and hope for the best. Those were the important things; the meaningful things. How different it was from the ‘do your own thing’ culture to which I was introduced in the 1960s, and how utterly remote from our children’s culture of 24-hour fast food and Facebook!

The roots of my lifelong inquiry into the nature of teaming have long been entwined with my quest for personal meaning. I used to think this was a contradiction of my forbears’ reality, but maybe it’s not. After all, what if the apple that you pinched from a fruit truck was the only thing you would eat for a whole day? Is there any question that you would be willing to work in a sweatshop for barely enough to buy bread, take a beating in the fight for the right to organize, and find your meaning at home?

The answer is this: The Industrial Revolution is over, and of course, you have the right to have meaningful work! We also have an obligation to be our best selves, and at work, we are at our best when we do work that is personally meaningful and satisfying. That right and that obligation are deeply embedded in our membership in an organized society where we continually influence each other’s experience. The quality of our time at work is a major factor in family, community, national, and global quality of life.

Somewhere there is a team that needs your specific, personal way of making a meaningful contribution, but there is a problem. We have interests, and skills that we are good at, and we acquire ideas about things we think we will enjoy doing. If they happen to be on target, terrific. But our accuracy in determining such matters is generally hit or miss. Consequently, a large percentage of the workforce is doing work that is not in tune with the deeper sense of meaningful.

Before I explain further, let me put some context around this.

I have been studying human interaction for a very long time. This is, after all, the business of behavioral scientists. But while most are interested in the behavior of individuals, I became fascinated by the behavior of teams, and I had questions.

Why, I always wondered, did the presence or absence of one specific person seem to have such an outsized impact on the rest of the team? Why did some people handle team upsets so calmly, while others went completely off the rails? What was behind the nitpicking and backbiting on a team when everyone had said their reason for being there was to be part of a team that helped and supported people?

I began to think that there was a lot more to teamwork than just people and job titles. People bring their intellect, their personalities, their knowledge, and their experience to teams, and those things are important. I knew about the many ways to measure and evaluate those attributes. But I wanted to know if there was a way to understand and measure the quality of connection or collaboration that a person, or a team, was capable of generating. To get to where I wanted to go, I had to understand teams that worked well – and those that didn’t.

So I thought about math and chemistry and physics. You know, in the physical sciences, when things don’t work together, scientifically speaking, nothing happens. But when chemical reactions DO happen, it is because one part connects with, or ‘needs’ the other! And they ‘need’ each other in the right proportions. Perhaps, I thought, people in teams were no different. What if principles like valence and coherence and molarity were actually happening at human scale? What if there was a way to understand and work with the physics of teaming?

After years of study, my research partner and I found that when you feel you have a mission in life, that’s a scientifically valid feeling. We took that knowledge to be a foundational element of team behavior and called it Role – with a capital R. We eventually identified ten elemental Roles that, working in concert, could meet all of an organization’s needs. And we knew, with all of our love of science, that identifying and understanding a person’s Role could be invaluable to management in selecting team members and assigning job responsibilities – and also to individuals in choosing a field of study, a career, and even a life partner.

With this new understanding – and Teamability®, a new technology of teaming that we engineered to measure it – it’s possible to close the gaps between what people do, and what makes them more comfortable, happy, and productive doing it with other people.

To my mind, the essence of meaningful work is this: contributing what is sacred to you – your life’s mission – in collaboration with other people who are contributing from their life’s mission. It adds up to people being fully engaged in teaming and fully in harmony with the mission of their team. This is the formula that makes any workplace a better place to work.

This post originally appeared on the blog Switch & Shift.

Question Authority! (Then Listen to the Answers)

I forget where I first heard the rallying cry Question Authority!

I mean, I’m a sixties person. I had it on a sweatshirt, on my college notebook (kids, this was a primitive device that required pen, paper, and handwriting) and on the stickers we pasted on phone booths. (Oh my… How do I explain ‘phone booth’? Ah! They were conveniently placed little rooms where Clark Kent could change into Superman.)

I think the term is also in one of James Baldwin’s early works.

Questioning authority was a team sport. We’d gather in small groups, debating whether or not the latest word from Washington – or from our college administration – was TRUTH. (We liked TRUTH and we spelled it that way.) Remember, there was a conflict raging in Southeast Asia (not a war, officially). And there were conflicts raging in the streets of urban America.

As we sung along with Bob Dylan, the times indeed were “a-changin’”.

I have not stopped questioning authority. But along the way, I started to listen to the answers.

Mostly, since I’m now old enough to be an authority, this means I get to question myself. And listen to my answers. And go back and clarify exactly what I meant when I said that. Sometimes what I thought was TRUTH is merely correct. Or open to debate.

You may not think you are an authority, but you are, at least on something. (Age does not really matter. Five year olds can be great authorities on the most surprising topics.)

So, when someone says something authoritative, what’s your default response? Question, accept, or listen and then decide?

If you are always questioning, you risk getting caught in the undertow of doubt. Slogging through battle after battle will surely slow your forward motion.

If you never question, you can never use the power of Authority as a stone against which to sharpen your individuality, to hone your wits, or to create synergy by joining with other people of like mind.

But if you listen, you have time to question. And time to digest the feedback. And time to raise your level of awareness before you ask your next, deeper question. People need to develop a mindful relationship with authority, whether it is internal or external. And you’ll be the wiser for the exercise because you will gain greater knowledge and trust (as appropriate) in that authority.

By the way, I also recall (with just a hint of a blush) parroting another watchword of the day: Don’t trust anyone over thirty! That particular form of authority didn’t last long.

This post originally appeared on  Switch & Shift.

Not a Born Leader? So What!

I was not born a leader.

When I was born (and this was a very long time ago), there were serious defects in my leadership blueprint. First, I had two X chromosomes at a time when one Y was needed in order to be a leader. Actually, nobody knew what a chromosome was back then, so 42 Extra Long was the preferred measure, and I didn’t reach my full 5’2” until I was 25.

Although I had no choice in the matter, I also ended up with two loving parents, neither of whom was an entrepreneur or executive. It would seem hopeless.

Now, in 2013, diversity is desirable. My dear friends in executive search tell me that they are under the gun to produce diversity slates for the high level positions they are engaged to fill. A diversity slate, one told me with his typically charming sense of irony, is one that includes at least one woman and one non-white.

When pressed to explain, he went on to say that this configuration positioned the first runner up to be the feel-good candidate while there actually would be no danger of hiring a person other than someone who looked like the rest of the executive team.

I think we’re looking at the wrong kind of diversity.

What if, instead, we looked at people from the viewpoint of the organization? What if, instead, the organization (as a living thing itself) were to provide the want-list, instead of the typical laundry list of job specs written by HR? What if we actually treated organization’s needs with respect and consideration?

This would truly represent a revolutionary change in the way we look at leadership and organizational dynamics.

It turns out that organizations – small, medium, large, and Fortune list huge – all have similar fundamental needs. The people who fill those needs best are the ones who feel, deep inside, a connection to the specific organizational need they are serving. This is what gives a person the sense that they are making meaningful contributions, more so than anything else they could be doing.

People may do various kinds of work similar in focus and thoughtfulness, but they experience different kinds of work in different ways; each aligned with the specific need of the organization that they are filling. This has especially important relevance to leadership.

There are those who are drawn to create big visions, as an entirely new product, or service, or level of awareness. They start an organization as a way to draw other people in to make it happen. In the language of Teamability, they are Founders.

There are those who bond to the vision of the Founder and lead the strategic process of putting it on the road to realization. In the language of Teamability, they are Vision Movers.

There are those who take the drive and activity of the Vision Mover and shape and form it into a more elegant, efficient framework. This transforms the team as well as the project. In the language of Teamability, they are Vision Formers.

There are those who adapt big-picture strategies into action. They are the heroes of their teams as they lead them into the fray. In the language of Teamability, they are Action Movers.

And there are those who make sure that every detail is in place, been accomplished well, and that the project is not closed until everything is done. They are extraordinary project managers, no matter what the project. In the language of Teamability, they are Action Formers.

All are leaders. All are essential. If you want to lead, and you feel comfortable in leading, one of these Roles probably resonates with you.

But there are five more needs that organizations have, and without them the organization is incomplete and structurally flawed. If you fill one or the other Roles, you may not be automatically seen as a leader. However, that does not mean you can’t lead. It may very well be that your organization needs you for a special kind of leading that only you can do.

We’re all in this together, and all people were born to serve. Whether your leadership is recognized or not is less important than your desire to contribute. It is really a matter of finding the right niche.

Here are some tactics you can try along your way to becoming a leader:

  • Start, or take a leadership position in, an organization that does something good for people. (I was involved in several parenting nonprofits and learned the good, the bad, the ugly, and the ‘well worth the trouble.’)
  • People often make snap judgments based on how you look, and they’re often wrong. But, the more you tune into how they see you, the more you can influence their ideas about you. Ask a friend for feedback. (I will be eternally grateful to my BFF Margot for getting me to stop dressing like a mom, even at business meetings.)
  • I have to give credit for this one to serial entrepreneur and investor, Vincent Schiavone. He told me his secret in two words: Get Famous! (I have been working on it ever since. Blogging is a good start!)
  • Ask yourself why you want to lead. If your answer is to make more money, there are probably easier ways. If your answer is to change the world (or some part of it) start figuring out how you’re going to do that and, more important, who you’ll need to team with in order to get there.
  • Finally: don’t give up. Remember that times change and you will change with them. What is impossible at 30 can be possible at 40, probable at 50, and inevitable at 60. (Just remember as you get older to stay young in your mind, your heart, and your body.)

Leadership is, after all, quite simple… and has nothing to do with being ‘born with it’. All you have to do is be the person other people want to follow!

This post originally appeared on Switch & Shift.

In Praise of Tribes

Have you found your tribes? Not tribe. Tribes.

This is a mobile-social-connected world. Perhaps way too M-S-C for some people…but if you’re reading this, you’re not one of them. You are multidimensional, geographically diverse, and time-zone agnostic in your scope of connectedness. But we still have our tribes.

Like me, you probably have a primary tribe, your home team. (For me, they are my Teamability peeps at The Gabriel Institute.) And there’s that amorphous tribe in the social cloud I’m often found floating on. And the tribes of common interest: the treps, the sixties folks, the people who are at the table with me on birthdays and holidays, my social media followers, and so on.

Now I have a new tribe, and it is really, really cool! I have joined the brand new Constellation Orbits group. Founded by R. ‘Ray’ Wang, Constellation Research is a guiding light in the fields of innovative and disruptive technology. Its stated goal is to help clients realize the Art of the Possible.

Constellation’s analysts are as varied as the places on the globe that they hail from. What they have in common though, is the depth of trust that I (and others much wiser than me) have in their advice on everything organizations need to know in order to meet the challenges of a rapidly evolving technological future.

The Orbits program brings together an equally diverse group of technologists, entrepreneurs, bloggers and business people each specializing in one or more of Constellation’s research themes: CoIT & The New C-Suite; Data to Decisions; Digital Marketing Transformation; Matrix Commerce; Next Gen Customer; Tech Optimization & Innovation; and my personal fave, Future of Work.

And there’s also a warm and wonderful crew who support Constellation’s clients and colleagues in so many ways.

I’ll be blogging on the Orbits site twice a month (or more!) and Constellation will be offering my workshops and Team Analysis advisory services as part of Constellation Academy. I’ll also be in attendance later this year at the fourth annual Constellation Connected Enterprise (news to follow!), which always feels like a homecoming.

Now, no matter where I go as a member of this globally interconnected tribe, I’ll never be far from home.

In the ‘Internet of Things’… Please Remember the People

When I was a very young mother (and this was a very, very long time ago) my mantra was ‘people are more important than things’. It worked the way a good mantra should, as an all-purpose stress reducer. It was especially handy after some bauble had been broken by the crashing of a particular toddler into a coffee table, or to calm things down after that same toddler started pounding on a sibling with a purloined toy. In other words, my mantra served equally as a reminder to myself, and as an influence on the moral development of my offspring.

People before things. I think it’s still worthy of consideration.

The other day, a former pro football player-turned-consultant told me about what goes on in the locker room when the team is not on the field. I have to admit, I was doubly disappointed. There were no lurid tales of cheerleaders gone wild; nor were there any heart-warmers about player’s moms showing up with homemade chicken soup or huckleberry pie. Not even a kid with cancer getting an autographed shirt from her sports idol. Nope. It was mostly the same as what goes on in the average living room these days: just individuals communing with their tablets and smartphones. Oh, dear.

‘But wait,’ you say, ‘they can’t all just be playing games! There’s Facebook and Twitter, sending selfies on Instagram, and texting, too.’ Yes, these pastimes do give the impression of social activity, but even then they may not actually be social, because no matter how many ‘friends’ or followers you’ve amassed, you’re alone with yourself and mostly sending one-way signals. There is no guarantee, and rarely an immediate way to know, whether or not even one person has seen, thought about, or cared what you just did.

Compare that with having a face-to-face conversation.

I can understand the appeal, having come of age during the time of beatnik culture. (This was before hippies, and way, way before the dawn of hip-hop.) Back then, alienation had been raised to an art form, but poetry was recited in coffee houses and listeners snapped their fingers to signify that the message was received, processed, and appreciated. There were creators, critics, patrons, and fans, in person and active on the typical team.

Today, we have an internet that can (and does) bring people together from all around the world to support a cause or to fund a startup business, and websites that personalize user experiences. But are these really personal connections – or just sophisticated transactions? The buzz-phrase ‘Internet of Things’ refers to an internet populated by inanimate objects that can be tracked and managed remotely. I don’t think it was meant to include people, but I worry if that might be where it’s headed.

As the word Alchemy describes the effort to transform base metals to gold, Dr. Joshua Lederberg coined the term ‘Algeny’ to describe the ‘upgrading’ of human organisms to generate better performance. In terms of giving people more knowledge, more range, and greater potential, the Internet of Things may seem to be a sort of ‘Algenist’s Apprentice.’ But like the Sorcerer, whose errant Apprentice misused powers that he didn’t fully comprehend, perhaps we should be aware. Not hostile or fearful. Just aware.

Consider this: those football players are surrounded by people whose job it is to polish and reinforce the interconnectedness of self, others, and team success. Their solitary communion with the Internet of Things is regularly replaced by green grass and a chalk-lined gridiron where (in an immediate and physical way) they crash headlong into their Reality of Teaming.

Yes, I have just capitalized Reality and Teaming. For those of us who are ‘on our own’ in exploring and experiencing the disembodied existence made possible in the internet and all of its things, Reality and Teaming may well be the saving graces.

Here’s to a warm and wonderful 2014. May all your interconnections be supportive, synergetic, and oh-so-satisfying!

How I’m Hiring or Firing My Next Doctor

I’m not a hospital administrator or the owner of a clinic. I’m just a regular person. Yet over my lifetime I’ve had to hire at least three dozen doctors. They’ve been my medical advisors (for family as well as me), my ‘body shop’ people (getting broken parts working again), and those who have risen to the job of ushering us through life’s transitions, beginning, middle, and end.


For more than half of my lifetime, I’ve been observing and studying the way people team together, and I’m also the architect of new technology that measures just that. Many of those early observations were made in health care environments, such as emergency rooms. I learned that when physicians and nurses ‘team well’ together, people who might have gone straight to the morgue are soon sitting up and asking ‘What time do we eat?’ But…sad to say…when medical teaming is out of whack, people who should have lived, don’t. When that happens, you can’t point a finger at any one person.  The proximal cause is a shortage of collaboration, and that’s not something we can control…or is it?

My opinion: yes.  How do I know? Because the ‘technology of teaming’ – tells me so.  But you don’t need technology to make medical care work better for you as an individual. Here’s how that happens, at least for me.

I’m an informed patient. Call me old-fashioned but I prefer that term to ‘health care consumer’. (Developing a relationship is preferable to ‘consuming’ your doctor’s time, attention and energy.) I know how I want my healthcare to go, and I do a lot to keep it on track. You know the basic components: nutrition, exercise, sleep, work I love, people I love. Most of the time it works great and I really don’t need help. But there are things I can’t do myself. Swap out those cataracts for bright new vision, for instance. Or get a second opinion on what will help a loved one in decline achieve a satisfying conclusion to a life lived well.

So I figure, what I need is a physician who’s a great team player and who wants to play on my team. And that’s the person I’m happy to hire.


You must be willing to lead, follow or get out of the way, as appropriate.


If I tell you I know little or nothing about something that is critically important (and I can’t learn it quickly enough on Medscape) I need you to take the lead. By that I mean, give me the big picture. The truth, as you see it. Maybe even the truth as others have seen it, making clear which part is medical party line, which part is new research, and which part is your opinion, because I might then feel the need to add another person to our team; one who has a responsible alternative viewpoint.


But then, if I know a lot about something, and I already have firm opinions, I need you to follow. That could mean telling me about options that will help me reach my goal, pointing me to the support structures or information sources to help me get through whatever I’m going through.


And sometimes, I might just need you to get out of the way. That could be when the time comes, and I hope that time is long off, when there is no more to be done.

That’s it. The rest is just practicing medicine.

This post originally appeared on the blog BRAINFOOD.

Care and Feeding of the CFO

John Marshall once served on the board of a start-up organization with me and since he was the only person with CFO credentials on tap, I asked him to do the budget. That didn’t make much sense, he quickly pointed out, saying “Janice, there’s no income to budget.” Never one to waste talent, I said, “Well, John, go figure out where to get some.” Whereupon he enlightened me thusly:

“CFO’s don’t bring in money – we force others to bring in money. We then complain that it is not enough and force them to go back out and get some more. When we get the money, we hate to part with it and we arm wrestle with those in the organization who seem to think money grows on trees. This is pretty much what we do – and should anyone ask about this at a cocktail party, we try to get them to buy our drinks.”

Okay, he was being somewhat tongue-in-cheek. But I got the point. If you want a great CFO (like John) you’d better make sure you have a great marketing and sales team to bring the money in. And a great operations team to make sure there aren’t great big piles of wasted resources. And equally great everyone else, to fill the rest of the seats, because the more you give a great CFO to work with, the more value they add to your enterprise!

And yes, I did buy him a drink.

This blog originally appeared on Innovation America.

Team Well and Prosper!

Innovation: the final frontier. These are the voyages of your life. Your mission: to explore new ideas, to seek out new opportunities and new prospects, to boldly go where no one has gone before.

It’s your future. You can either go it alone – be the captain, first officer, communications officer, navigator, chief engineer, cook and bottle washer – or you can discover and develop your personal best way to make team contributions, trusting others to make their contributions with equal authority and responsibility.

Teaming in this new way  is a daunting challenge, with potential high costs and risks. It’s like being newly born and all of a sudden having to navigate nursery school. Life doesn’t work that way. We learn to relate to other people – to team with them – by first connecting with one other person, and then two others. Collaboration happens haltingly at first. Think about the complications of getting along with parents or guardians. How long did it take you to figure out that you couldn’t tell one of them something without the other somehow finding out?

So if you want to invest in better teamwork, your quickest ROI will come from finding a person – just one person – with whom you have a natural fit. This is not a random match. Research tells us that for each one of 10 specific modes of team contribution (known as Role, with a capital R), there is a complementary Role. When you meet a person who is your Role-partner, an instant connection will be made, and it will have nothing to do with age, appearance, gender or intellect. It will be a naturally occurring synergy between your Roles that inspires, ignites, produces, distributes or solves something and creates business value.

If you haven’t yet experienced Teamability, you don’t know your Role, and that’s okay for now. Just read that list again and let the words sink in. Inspires… ignites… produces… distributes… solves. Which one seems more resonant, more appealing and more deeply meaningful to you?

Here’s a first step toward discovery of the part of you than longs to team with other people. It works because the five words are essentially about the needs of a team. If you sensed a special connection to one above the others, then that word may be telling you something about the Role that exists within you.


Your Role is likely to be a Founder or a Communicator – the Role-pair that gets people excited about a new mission. Do you have a big dream, or do you love bringing people together to support the achievement of big dreams? For a team to form, to innovate and to do more than simply carry on, there needs to be a vision, and a means for communicating and maintaining the vision. When a Founder and a Communicator get together, that’s what happens.


The Roles of Vision Mover and Vision Former convert ideas and descriptions into strategic plans and activities. Have you noticed that you naturally take to being a spark plug in a group? Do the words “here’s how we’re going to make this happen” ring a bell? These are power-packed Roles, but without each other’s influence they can be like gasoline in a dish. One flash and it’s over. Together they are like gasoline in an engine. Apply the spark and you can really go someplace!


Your Role is likely either an Action Mover – the deployment specialist – or an Action Former, the expert in detail and follow-up. Think of a team leader and with the troops burning through to-do lists, and a project manager with a clipboard, checking things off as they’re completed. Here’s the essential Role-pairing: deployment without follow-up can go seriously haywire, and follow-up without deployment is pointless.


If you are an Explorer, you may have noticed your knack for spotting valuable things or opportunities that others missed — like, all the time. If you are a Watchdog, you probably have a natural interest in caring for the needs of others; getting those resources to the place where they’ll do the most good. Explorers team from a distance, and Watchdogs team from within. As a pair, they provide an internal/external linkage and balance that becomes a lifeline for any kind of organization.


Every organization needs sources of information and applied ingenuity. People of the Curator Role will, all on their own, gather and organize massive amounts of information. (How big is your library, and how many trivia contests have you won?) Meanwhile, Conductors have a seemingly limitless appetite for tackling thorny problems. They are the ultimate fixers and greasers-of-the-wheels of production. (Do you feel that you don’t get the credit you deserve? This Role-pair is a powerhouse of problem solving, but Curators tend to avoid the spotlight, and Conductors are often misunderstood by the people they help.)

In the end, understanding your own Role and connecting with your Role-partner will begin your voyage of self-discovery and personal innovation. When you no longer feel the need to be everything to everyone, life is less stressful and you get to experience the joy of making a personally meaningful contribution. This brings stress reduction to the whole team and makes everyone more productive. Team players are neither dependent nor co-dependent. They’re interdependent.

And that’s how they prosper.

This blog originally appeared on Monster Thinking.


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