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Maximize the Geniuses on Your Team

If you serve in ministry, it’s likely that at some point you’ve worked as part of a team. Over the years, I’ve worked on several teams where everyone is dancing to the same tune. Ideas seem to sway throughout the room, and the right person grabs one and swings it into a viable concept. Then, someone else perfectly executes the choreography, while the backup dancers follow it to the end of the score. As Jim Collins would say in his book Good to Great, “We not only had the right people on the bus, but we had the right people in the right seats on the bus!” Other times, I’ve been on teams where it feels like no matter what we do, everyone is stepping on each other’s toes, plans fall off-beat, and movement is painfully slow. At these times, everyone seems to be sitting in the same seat on the bus without a bus driver!

According to Patrick Lencioni, everyone has work gifts that come naturally—talents through which we work best and get much enjoyment. Conversely, some work tasks are frustrating and make us want to pull out our hair. When organizations can identify unique gifts and talents in team members, they can put each person in the right seat and steer the bus to its destination in record time. To do this, Lencioni developed the Six Types of Working Genius model, which helps individuals identify their top two Working Geniuses, those talents which come naturally and are most energizing to perform. Close behind are the Working Competencies. These are high proficiencies areas but not as enjoyable as the Working Geniuses. Working Frustrations are practically despised. These tasks drain team members and make them dread the workday ahead!

Working Genius gifts can easily be remembered using the acronym WIDGET: Wonder, Invention, Discernment, Galvanizing, Enablement, Tenacity. They can be further broken down into three categories: Ideation, Activation & Implementation. When people spend the majority of their working time in their top two Working Geniuses, they will find their work much more satisfying and productive.

Ideation—Wonder & Invention

Wonder: Let’s think about it.

Most people with the gift of Wonder don’t even recognize this is a gift at all. These people naturally ponder if things could or should be better. They are curious how things might improve and get frustrated by unfulfilled potential or unmet needs. Wonder often sparks the inspiration to start new projects, initiatives, programs, or even companies. This Genius often goes unnoticed since it tends to happen before any real work begins. When Wonder is missing from a team, that team often fails to identify serious pitfalls or major opportunities. This is because teams without the Wonder Genius tend to focus on getting things done rather than thinking about the important needs of the organization. The Genius of Wonder helps a team spend necessary time thinking, dreaming, and brainstorming, as well as being comfortable with uncertainty. These people encourage a team to focus on being effective, not just efficient.

Invention: Let’s figure it out.

Has your team ever been stuck trying to figure out the solution to a problem? Then suddenly, someone beams, “Hey, I have an idea!” This team member likely has the Genius of Invention. Those with the Invention thrive on creativity, novel thinking, and innovation. They enjoy identifying and solving problems. Teams that lack the Genius of Invention tend to revisit the same issues over and over again. They rely on the same ideas and methods, hoping that somehow “this time” it will work. Little progress is made, and the team tends to get burnt out expending a lot of energy with limited results. The Genius of Invention allows a team to explore new ideas that lead to real results.

Activation—Discernment & Galvanizing

Discernment: Let’s do this or not.

People with the Genius of Discernment have what many would call a “gut feeling” that tends to be pretty accurate. They seem to possess an instinctively integrative way of discriminating good ideas and plans from bad ones. They are driven by the pursuit of truth or the best answer. They have a natural ability to assess whether something has the potential to work or if adjustments are needed to make it more successful. People with the Genius of Discernment balance logic and common sense with emotional intelligence and intuition. When Discernment is missing from a team, implemented ideas tend to be ineffective or inadequate, with high rates of failure. Tensions rise as team members who came up with the new ideas blame the people implementing them, and vice versa. Having someone with the Genius of Discernment on a team helps avoid bad ideas and evaluate ways to turn good ideas into great ones.

Galvanizing: Let's move forward.

The Genius of Galvanizing is one of the easiest types to identify since it often involves evangelizing, inspiring, recruiting, and selling. It’s hard to deny those who have this gift since it’s so apparent and valued, while those who don’t have it freely admit it! People with the Genius of Galvanizing bring energy to ideas and movement to projects. They inspire others to get excited and involved. Once a person with Galvanizing accepts a project, they ensure it gets the attention it deserves, then they mobilize others to move things forward. This is why when a team lacks the Genius of Galvanizing, it often fails to generate the enthusiasm and support needed to get ideas off the ground. It leaves teams feeling defeated and deficient.

Implementation—Enablement & Tenacity

Enablement: Let me help you get things done.

The word “enablement” tends to have a negative connotation. It is commonly associated with dysfunction or addiction. But in the case of the WIDGET, this Genius is one you cannot afford to miss on your team. Someone with the Genius of Enablement is enthusiastically inclined to offer support to projects and ideas. They know things don’t happen unless the right people make them happen, and they have a knack for showing up at the right time, with the right way, to do just that. Unfortunately, this Genius usually hates to admit they have it because of how enablement is generally perceived. They don’t even realize it is a gift! People with Enablement tend to think they are just being nice or helpful, and they mistakenly assume this is just an ordinary way to be. This Genius is critical to the success of any endeavor, and without it, good ideas fail to get traction. When a team lacks the Genius of Enablement, they will lack enthusiasm and camaraderie, leaving projects to wither away before implementation. These teams fail to feed the passion of Galvanizers, leaving members frustrated and isolated.

Tenacity: Let’s complete this project.

The Genius of Tenacity differs from Enablement in that it is more about getting work done rather than meeting the needs of other team members. Tenacity Geniuses primarily focus their energy on execution. They want to make sure they meet or exceed the standards of performance. When a project loses its novelty or team attention shifts to the next big idea, those with the Genius of Tenacity are driven to see the original project to completion, no matter what it takes. They are fueled by the satisfaction they derive from knowing all of the work has been finished, done well, and is achieving the desired results. This determination comes naturally to those with Tenacity, while those who lack this gift tend to feel guilty about it. A team without this Genius often fails to complete projects at the highest possible standards, or even at all. As soon as the thrill of the project wears off, so does the energy needed to see it to the end. The Genius of Tenacity ensures a great finish and allows teams to see the full impact of their ideas or projects.

Putting Your Genius to Work on Teams

The Six Types of Working Genius were created to complement each other, creating a workflow leading from Ideation to Activation to Implementation. Teams can be transformed by using this model. First, it increases individual productivity and morale by maximizing the amount of time spent in the areas of Genius and minimizing time in areas of Frustration. Then, as a whole, teams built with all six Geniuses can increase their likelihood of success. To start, invite all team members in your organization to complete the Six Types of Working Genius assessment, which takes about ten minutes. After revealing individual Geniuses and Frustrations, map out your team's Geniuses on a whiteboard. Identify any Geniuses your team might lack or overlap, and reorganize roles and responsibilities for members to better utilize their gifts.

The ULC hosted an awesome webinar on The Six Types of Working Genius by the ULC that dives into how to use this assessment for more effective teams. If you’ve taken the assessment, I’d love to hear about your working Geniuses and how leaning into them has brought success to your teams. Post your reply in the comments!

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Unknown member
Apr 06, 2022

Fantastic blog, Tania! I love your passion for building complementary teams!

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