The Synergist; Valuing All the Roles

In his most recent book Les McKeown mentioned that work teams needed to include the three different roles of visionary, operator, and processor. I was struck by this set of definitions and how useful they are.

In my own experience of working with teams, it seems that almost everyone values the role of visionary when of course not all of them are gifted at being visionary. There’s a kind of jealousy of “visionary is the best role”, when in reality all the different skills / roles matter. If the CEO is the visionary, then the other folks are completing the picture of what is needed for the business when they own their gifts of “Operator” or “Processor”. Alternatively, if the CEO is predominantly an operator, the Board might want to recognize they need to add visionary influence to help the company reimagine what customers they could serve in the future.

So I wanted to know Les’s take about having people (a) know, and (b) respect their different gifts?

From Les McKeown, the author of Synergist:

Knowledge of the different styles is incredibly empowering for an effective team.

Not only does it enable the team to play to each individual’s strengths, it de-personalizes a lot of team conflict. Knowing, for example, that Priya is a strong Processor is much easier to deal with than simply finding her micro-attention to detail frustrating on a personal level. Annoyance at (say) Mike’s seemingly constant hyperbole becomes much more manageable once you realize he’s a Visionary and that the use of hyperbole is therefore simply part of his DNA. (This is not to say that all interpersonal conflict disappears in a Synergistic team, but it is greatly reduced.)

The second thing that happens once you become aware of an individual’s latent style is that you begin to match their style with the challenges the team faces. Now you have an extra tool in your toolkit – not just “How can Mike, Priya or Brad help with this issue?” but also “What can a Visionary, Operator or Processor contribute to meeting and overcoming this challenge?”

As I say, awareness of the three natural styles within any team is an incredibly powerful tool in and of itself.

Thankfully the styles are so intuitive, natural and easy to spot that awareness can happen literally in minutes: that’s one of the main reasons I wrote the book – to give people the vocabulary they need to use the Visionary, Operator and Processor styles literally after reading just the first chapter.

I agree with Les. We each can do better once we understand our predominant gifts so we can know how we can match up what we love to do with the work at hand. This work goes a long way to help people get their predominant axis without having to understand enneagram and MBTI tools.

The book, The Synergist, can be found here..

(And, if you want to hear Les and I chat together, we did a podcast together recently which can be found here.)

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