Tap into Your Team’s 6 Types of Working Genius

Posted by Kristin Arnold on August 10, 2021

Working Genius

“Every job is a 6-letter job,” or so says Patrick Lencioni as the premise of his latest assessment: The 6 Types of Working Genius.

Birthed in the middle of the pandemic, Patrick was frustrated in his role as CEO and wanted to figure out why.  After all, doesn’t everyone deserve a job that brings them joy and fulfillment?  Yet there were things he absolutely loved to do, things he did well and could sustain over time, and things that drained the energy out of him.  And thus the Six Types of Working Genius was born.

I was fortunate enough to listen to an early presentation he made to the Chief Executive Network and I was hooked, hook, line, and sinker to this simple, powerful, and memorable model.  So much so that I hoovered everything I could on the model, shared the model with a few clients (thank you – and you know that I experimented on you!), and just finished one of the first Working Genius Certification workshops!

The 6 Types of Working Genius Defined

So what’s the Working Genius?  Some might think it is another personality profile like MBTI or DiSC, and there is a small dose of personality in this assessment.  But more importantly, it is a productivity tool to help your team be more productive and fulfilled in their work.  It’s super fast to take the assessment and easy to remember (aka easy to use in a team setting).  I can share this simple model in less than three minutes and you’ll instantaneously “get it”:

So let’s start with the basics: Every job has six elements or “geniuses” that create great results:

  • Wonder – The natural gift of pondering the possibility of greater potential and opportunity in a given situation.
  • Invention – The natural gift of creating original and novel ideas and solutions.
  • Discernment- The natural gift of intuitively and instinctively evaluating ideas and situations.
  • Galvanizing –  The natural gift of rallying, inspiring, and organizing others to take action.
  • Enablement – The natural gift of providing encouragement and assistance for an idea or project.
  • Tenacity – The natural gift of pushing projects or tasks to completion to achieve results.
Working Genius Certification

Notice: “WIDGET” is a clever acrostic that is easy to remember! Photo: The Table Group

You can see how all jobs start with someone wondering why and then brainstorming solutions.  Wonder and Invention are the two geniuses in the ideation phase.  But it doesn’t stop there as not all ideas are great ideas!  Inventive ideas need to be evaluated and refined until there is a crystal clear vision to rally around.

Discernment and Galvanizing are the two geniuses in the activation phase.  Once the idea has taken shape, then the geniuses of Enablement and Tenacity help and support those to bring it home in the implementation phase.

All six Working Geniuses are required for getting work done successfully.  And we all have TWO areas of

  • Working Genius – your natural ability that brings you energy, joy, and fulfillment.  Think of this as your “flow state.”  You could do this kind of work forever.  It’s baked into your DNA.
  • Working Competency – you can do this type of work well (and may get lots of positive reinforcement about it), but you are not fulfilled with this kind of work.  Over time, this drains your energy and productivity.
  • Working Frustration – you dislike doing this type of work and find it draining, even if you’ve learned to be capable of it.

As Patrick says,

“We should be doing a good portion of our work where we can hold onto the energy for a long time.  Working in our geniuses doesn’t feel like work at all.”

The Working Genius and Teams

So what’s this got to do with teams?  Simple.  When staffing projects, making assignments, offering help and support, tap into each of your team’s working genius!

By knowing what is needed for that phase of the team’s task, you can minimize people’s frustrations and be cognizant to NOT overburden those who are competent in a specific genius.  (You know this happens….you keep giving a task “no one else can do” and then wonder why they are on the road to burnout!).

But what I love best about this tool is that it gives a language and a framework to discuss how the team wants to do its work AND to reduce the guilt and shame that comes along with operating outside of your working genius.  As Patrick says,

“Plenty of people do work that doesn’t correspond to their Working Geniuses.  To a certain extent, this is inevitable.  However, some people find themselves in roles that require them to spend a lot of time doing what they don’t naturally enjoy, and what they may not be particularly good at.  This can limit success or lead to deep frustration.

Many people attribute their failures and struggles to having a bad attitude, not being smart enough, or making bad decisions.  When people realize they have certain areas of Genius, and other areas of frustruation, they can attribute their struggles to the lack of alignment between their geniuses and their role.  This reduces their sense of guilt and shame, and allows them to move into work that provides a better chance of fulfillment and success…or put them in a role that better suits them.”

Additionally, this model helps reduce team frustration. For example, I was working with an executive who was frustrated with one of his direct reports thinking “He’s not creative enough.”  By having his entire team take the assessment, he realized that this Enablement-Tenacity leader was plenty creative in supporting and helping others to complete the myriad tasks and in getting his own work done.

The executive was confusing ideation with creativity and expecting something that his employee was competent or even frustrated with.  (The executive actually realized that he didn’t need a “new idea” guy – he had plenty of those on his team – but he DID need someone who could take that idea and bring it across the finish line!)

Finally, this model takes the turbulence out of meeting mayhem.  You know the meeting where you are supposed to be talking strategy (which is a wonder/invention conversation) and a question about tactics disrupts the momentum?  No guilt, no shame; it’s an implementation idea that is too soon for the discussion. Put it in the parking lot for the right time.

OR when you’re having a daily huddle and a teammate wants to reinvent the wheel?  (I can already hear the groans…).   As Patrick says, “We all tend to make every meeting about our own Geniuses.  This is well-intentioned but disorienting.  Leaders and participants need to learn to regulate [and leverage] their genius” for the different types of meetings.

As one of the first batch of certified facilitators, I am honored to be able to offer the assessment and coaching around this model to help your teams be more productive.  If you are interested or would like more information, I invite you to contact me at 480.399.8489 or book a time to chat.

KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF | Master, CSP is a high-stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator.  She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 27 years.  She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action.  Her latest book, 123 Ways to Add Pizazz to a Panel Discussion was published in January 2021.

Recent Articles:

How to Facilitate a Virtual Meeting: Roles, Tips, & Responsibilities

What to Look For When Hiring a Meeting Facilitator

Stretch your Leadership Team’s Ability to Think Strategically

Photo by Millo Lin on Unsplash

KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CSP, CPF|Master has been facilitating meaningful conversations between executives and managers to make better decisions and achieve extraordinary results for 25+ years. She's a leading authority on moderating panel discussions and passionate about finding the perfect olive to complement a vodka martini.

Skip to content