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Leadership Gems


Turbulence: AKA, "What Just Happened?"

The pace of work and accomplishment in most organizations is at an all-time high. As the speed of change increases, senior leaders and their teams are being pressed for unique vision and intense execution. This leads to quick conversations, brief meetings and inadvertently skipping important elements of the work process.

You and your team can avoid creating unnecessary turbulence within your organization by understanding the different ways team members contribute, and also better utilizing every stage of how work gets done. We call these the “Six Types of Working Genius.” If you are unfamiliar with this model, click here to read more about each area of genius and discover your own geniuses.

One way to understand “The Six Types of Working Genius” and how they relate to one another is to see them in terms of relative “elevations”. Each genius operates at a different “elevation,” or step in the process of accomplishing work.

When conversational “altitudes” are shifting rapidly inside of a meeting or conversation, things may feel a little bumpy to members of your team—just like a plane might experience turbulence when the pilot is changing altitudes quickly. Let’s break this down a bit further by examining each individual elevation.

The following descriptions are courtesy of The Table Group.

Wonder occurs at the highest altitude, perhaps at 30,000 feet. “Have we thought about where we are going to land this plane? What would be the best airport for us to touch down in?”

Invention occurs a little lower, at 25,000 feet, in response to the questions raised by the wonderer. “I have an idea! We could touch down in Wisconsin. I’ve checked the weather, and it seems like it would be pretty smooth all the way to the Central Wisconsin Airport.”

Discernment occurs a little lower still, at 20,000 feet, giving feedback to the inventor about the idea. “You’re right about the weather, and I’m glad you thought of that. But our fuel is getting low, and it would be a little bit of a stretch. And since it’s a regional airport, will it have a ground crew?”

Galvanizing occurs at about 10,000 feet, after the plan has been discerned. “Okay everyone, let’s huddle up and get on the same page. We’re going to land in less than 20 minutes in Minneapolis, and I need all-hands-on-deck. We need to get the cabin cleaned up, make sure passengers are in their seats, communicate to the air traffic controller and prep the landing gear. It’s going to take all of us to pull this off on such short notice so let’s get focused.”

Enablement occurs next, at 5,000 feet in response to the galvanizer. “Okay, we’ll start getting the cabin cleaned up and make sure the passengers are in their seats and aware of the plan. If there’s anything else you need, let us know, we’re here to help.”

Tenacity occurs between 1,000-and 10-feet, giving structure and discipline to the plan to ensure it gets executed well. “Okay, everybody, we are only 5 minutes out. Let’s confirm with the air traffic controller that the runway is open, and we are clear for landing. Everyone, please remain in your seats and stick to the plan. We will be on the ground in no time.”

I recently experienced this sensation of altitude change in a collaborative meeting with four other leaders. As we processed how to solve a problem, each of us operated within our own respective areas of genius. In this group, there was more galvanizing, enablement and tenacity represented than wonder, invention and discernment.

The result? Our fast pace created significant gaps in the work process.

Within minutes, our spirited and rapid dialogue about launching a new initiative moved from one initial idea into a full-blown planning session. We skipped over the high altitudes of the idea, where we might have paused to step back, consider options, brainstorm, and discern. Instead, we plunged directly into the tactical. We would have continued to press onward, but one of the leaders in the room interjected. Sensing meeting “whiplash”, he purposefully paused to ask, “What just happened here?”

This individual is strong in the wonder and invention geniuses, which are referred to as the “30,000 and 25,000 foot views”. He was experiencing a sense of disorientation because our conversation was moving from the ideation stage to the implementation stage too quickly. While I, along with the two other leaders at the table, were prepared to dive into details, this leader was experiencing turbulence because he works best within higher altitudes!

We were discussing how to launch our initiative—details this leader might have left to members of his team to execute upon. This caused disorientation and a lot of extra brainpower and emotional energy needed to fight the sudden “drop” in our elevation. Those of us stronger in enablement and tenacity were trying to land the plane, but it hadn’t even taken off yet! We did not realize we were skipping an entire phase in the work process, the “activation” phase, which emphasizes the geniuses of discernment and galvanizing. The courage of this leader to call out the turbulence prevented costly mistakes for our team.

It is common to default to personal working geniuses but is equally important to promote the strengths of others. Members of a team need one another.

When we fail to ensure all geniuses are represented around the table, and/or skip stages in the work process, we can easily derail dialogues, miss critical steps, and create unnecessary turbulence for everyone on the team plane.


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