Have you ever worked at an office where everyone hates each other? The tension at the conference table is tangible. The death glares are unmistakable. The rude under-the-breath remarks aren’t really under the breath.
Or, have you ever worked at an office where you all get along? Everyone respects and appreciates one another, and you brag about your teammates.
Yet, you never seem to accomplish your goals. You’re a family, but as you well know, no one can drive you as crazy as your family.
Both of these scenarios are commonplace. Interestingly enough, they both possess a common thread, too. And no, it’s not as simple as a communication issue — it’s an understanding-everyone’s-personalities-and-strengths issue.
I recently read a book assigned by my boss. *Full disclosure: I get an Amazon gift card for writing this book review.
However, while I couldn’t resist the monetary incentive, I was curious as to why my boss was so adamant we read this book. Plus, I’m an extreme Operator, and live for checking off tasks. More on this later.
The book is called The Synergist: How to Lead Your Team to Predictable Success. It’s a pretty cool name, and I couldn’t help but say it in that ubiquitous movie trailer voice-over… “In a world, the Synergist will unite us all.”
The Synergist, by Les McKeown, explores the three primary personality types:
- The Visionary (aka the person with all the great ideas, but who has no follow-through)
- The Operator (aka the person with all the follow-through, but who has no patience)
- The Processor (aka the person with all the patience, but who has to have a plan for everything).
The Visionary Envisions. The Operator Executes. The Processor Engineers.
As you can probably guess, these three personality types don’t always get along or agree. When this happens, the team becomes gridlocked and eventually crumbles, as does the company.
Their conflicting natures prevent them from becoming a true team. When you aren’t a team, you can’t accomplish your company’s goals.
It’s said the triangle is the strongest, most stable shape found in nature, but McKeown’s book refutes that theory. A triangle needs a balancing point, or as you math geeks may call it, a centroid. The V-O-P group is like an unstable triangle. It needs someone to act as its center of gravity and harmony.
Enter the Synergist. The Synergist is the “missing link,” the proverbial fairy godmother of the group. The Synergist “transforms the two-dimensional V-O-P group into a truly three-dimensional team.”
While there are naturally occurring Synergists (ROI Online has quite a few!), the other types can learn the Synergist style.
For a business to succeed, it must have these four personalities. You have to have the big-idea guys, or businesses would never start. You have to have the fixers, or nothing would ever get accomplished. You have to have the planners, or the business wouldn’t grow.
What I Discovered About My Team
Before I read this book, I was fully aware each one of my coworkers is driven by different motivations and fears. However, I didn’t understand what those were and how they affected our communication.
For example, when an Operator like myself hears an idea, my first instinct is to get it done. There’s a reason my boss assigned me the task of getting everyone to take the Synergist quiz.
A Visionary’s, on the other hand, is to move on the next hot topic, or as McKeown calls it, the "Shiny Blue Ball Syndrome." By the time we all took the free online quiz our Visionary boss had already found a new book for us to read.
The Processor's first thought is determining what system or process to use. I can guarantee the Processors in our group meticulously studied each of the quiz questions, while I just zoomed through them.
Once I saw everyone’s results, I must admit, I had personality envy. I obviously failed the Visionary and Synergist portion of the quiz. I even retook the test just to make sure I didn’t accidentally answer a question wrong (BTW, you can’t answer a question wrong and you can’t fail the quiz).
But there’s no denying it. I’m an Operator. And not just any Operator, mind you. A crazy one, as I should be placed in a lab in a remote area of the Costa Rican jungle and studied. See below.
As for the rest of the ROI crew, three of them are Synergists, four are Visionaries, and two are Processors. And then there’s me, the sole Operator, with about as much Vision as a mole. Not only am I an OCD nut (I can say that because it runs in my family), but I’m also by myself.
Let’s now look at my boss’s, Steve’s. As the founder of ROI Online, it makes perfect sense that he’s a Visionary through and through. If it weren’t for Steve, ROI wouldn’t exist, and I would have painfully perished continuing to work in the soul-sucking newspaper industry.
Steve and I are pretty much polar opposites. If we were brother and sister, we would never be allowed to sit on the same side of the dinner table because one of us would eventually get stabbed with a butter knife.
However, if it weren’t for the Operators like me, the great ideas the Steves in this world come up with wouldn’t come to fruition. And if weren’t for the Visionaries, we Operators would have no tasks to complete, and therefore our lives we be devoid of purpose.
Then you have Gabe, our Creative Director. None of us were surprised she’s a natural Synergist. If you compare our results, you can see why Gabe and I work so well together. What I lack in the Synergist and Visionary arenas, she makes up for. And what she lacks in the Operator and Processor categories, I make up for.
Then you have Aaren, who’s also in the Content Dept. She’s a Processor. What’s great about the dynamic we have going on the Content Dept. is that Aaren is strategic and practical. Processors are also calm and even-tempered, while Operators are a little more on the impatient side.
Once I sat down and studied all of my teammate’s results, I realized I shouldn’t be jealous of them, because each one of us, including myself, is integral to the success of ROI.
If you only had an office of Visionaries, nothing would get accomplished. Sure, you would have these earth-shattering, Shark-Tank-worthy ideas, but who would execute them?
If you had an office of just Operators, my God, it would be like a bad robot movie. You’d get a lot of shit done, but the environment would be void of creativity.
If you had an office of just Processors, you’d be extremely efficient, but the company would suffocate from all the systems, reports, and plans.
And the Synergist is by no means a superhero, McKeown asserts. They have their own weaknesses, too.
What I Discovered About Myself
After reading the book, I have come to terms with my extreme Operator personality. That’s who I am. While I have replaced Post-Its with an online project management tool and drastically cut down on my carbon footprint, I still get a rush and a cathartic release every time I check off a task. It’s what I imagine the feeling people get when they go skydiving or bungee jumping.
I’m a workhorse, and sure, while I may loathe going to meetings, sitting in silence for an hour as nothing (in my opinion) is accomplished, you can always rely on me to get the job done.
I remember growing up and as an icebreaker in middle school we had to to come up with a word to follow the first letter of our first name. For the D, I chose Dazzling (not sure if that one’s true). For the R and E, I chose Reliable and Efficient. Worrywart was the W, if I remember correctly.
Being reliable and efficient is the way I’m wired, and that’s not going to change.
However, if we all, including myself, can adopt the Synergist mindset (and no, we can’t rely on the natural Synergists in the group), we can achieve predictable success.
Whether you are a small start-up struggling to scale, a mid-sized business looking to pursue a new revenue stream, or a Fortune 500 corporation that’s failing to develop its leaders, this book will help you understand your natural role as well as your coworkers’ perspectives, so you can successfully communicate, interact, and work with one another.
*Another full disclosure: I don't get any monetary reward if you purchase the book, but you should read it anyway.Ben White