When Teammates Collide
Forward-focused teammates clash with foot-draggers. But, foot-draggers aren’t the problem.
My approach to an opportunity is grab it and go. Planning isn’t high on my list. I know it’s important but can’t we plan as we go. “Just do something” is my motto. Build the airplane in the air.
“Just do something people” drive planners crazy. But “just do something” isn’t the problem.
A planner on my team sent me an e-mail that included, “I don’t want to frustrate you.” I was pushing for a next step. He was explaining why we can’t move forward, at this time.
Every team experiences collisions between team members pushing for the next thing and those reluctant to move forward.
*Heidi Grant Halvorson and E. Tory Higgins explain motivational collisions in their new book, “Focus.” They explain how some tend to promote and others prevent.
Promoters play to win.
Preventers play not to lose.
Preventors prefer to say, “No! to an opportunity, rather than end up in hot water.” Halvorson and Higgins.
Over the years, I’ve seen the weakness of my promoter-focus. I don’t protect gains. Mistakes are no big deal. Planning takes too long. I’m willing to lose what I have – to gain what I don’t.
Promoters tend toward big ideas.
Preventers are great with details.
“For a promotion-focused person, what’s really “bad” is a nongain: a chance not taken, a reward unearned, a failure to advance… But for the prevention-focused, the ultimate “bad” is a loss you failed to stop; a mistake made, a punishment received, a danger you failed to avoid.”
Everyone, according to Halvorson and Higgins, has both motivations and, depending on the context, brings them out. The planner, I mentioned, who didn’t want to frustrate me is a fire-ball-promoter once he sees a path to success, for example.
How might leaders navigate tensions between promoters and preventors?
*Heidi Grant Halvorson and E. Tory Higgins lead the Motivational Science Center at Columbia Business School.
Bonus material: Heidi Grant Halvorson in her own words on characteristics of promotion and prevention focus. (4:17)
Dan, I think that you hit upon the answer to the issue in your last paragraph. The leaders mission is to bring clarity to the situation. If people cannot see where you are going, or don’t understand or belive in the mission, they will ALL drag their feet in whatever way works best for them. That can mean digging into the details until no one cares, or hyping things so much they push the mission off the side of the proverbial cliff because they wish to see it fail.
People are much easier to deal with when they can see the path clearly. Planners can hammer out the details while the promoters fan the flames.
Good post, as always.
Thanks for bringing clarity to the conversation. Clarity comes to people in different ways. Clarity might come to a preventor by anticipating and planning for problems…where promoters find clarity by thinking about opportunities. The book “Focus” helps readers learn how to communicate effectively with the different motivational orientations.
Martina, you beautifully summarized the teamwork aspect in your final comment: “Planners can hammer out the details while the promoters fan the flames.” That is a great take-away for me to help me envision how my team can celebrate both perspectives and use the differences for the benefit of everyone.
Dan, thanks for bringing this resource to our attention! It sounds like the perfect book for me at the perfect time. 🙂
Lead follow or get out of the way
The Dude Abides
Shifterp Out. Back to Flourishing
NEXT… my problem is, not everyone functions with NEXT in mind… then I label them as “foot draggers”
It is easier to pull than drag
Great thoughts, Dan. We have to find the Golden Mean and learn how to lead our team in such a way that all of their talents align for the success of the organization rather than pull in opposite directions, resulting in slow progress.
You bet, Justin. Skilled leaders know how and when to leverage promoters and preventers. They also know how to bring out the preventer in promoters and promoters in preventers.
The preventors in my life are a gift not a curse. As, I am a gift to them.
You call the planners ‘preventers’. But to use your airplane analogy, some of the planners are … planning and in no way preventing. My husband and I have a saying – never go back – which means that we think it’s kind of a fail if we have to backtrack over something we already did. (Like return home for a forgotten item). It’s kind of a joke but there are special people who pursue forward motion with serious intent to win and win big – but planning the way forward. Big projects and big money require them, as well as the subsequent swift execution that makes one wonder – ‘was there a building there last week?’
Thanks so much for your daily thoughtful inspiration. I needed you today and there you were!
Great add, Catie.
I think the connection between planners and preventing is that plans not only include how to maximize results but minimize mistakes. It speaks back to motivation. I found it fascinating.
One of the unfortunate things about these ideas is preventor feels negative and promoter feels positive. Organizations flounder when they are all one or the other.
For those that have ever taken the Fallup Strength Finders Course, those individuals who want to take quick action and get things done without a plan are Activators. Activators don’t want to sit and wait. They want to get things done. They feel that they will be judged on what they accomplish and they take pride in it. The downfall can be that too little planning can hold back the success of their actions. Planning is a critical step.
Thanks for extending the conversation. I’m a huge fan of the strength based movement.
I guess I’m an activator. And I’ve learned to value and work at planning. Mostly, I let others do the planning. when it comes to that stage of a project, I do what I’m told.
I am not a planner. I jump in and do. That is not always a good thing! I appreciate planners who grab me by the arm and say “Wait, have you thought of this?” True, some people are preventers who use planning as an excuse not to act. But for the wonderful people out there who are planners, thank you for helping me make those jumps just a little less risky.
I suppose a preventer could seem like a do-nothing. But I think the main issue is to address their orientation. The preventers I know carry organizations. They are also passionate but they are not the FIRST to be passionate…they need some time. Thanks for joining in.
Difficulties arise when you see planning and doing as ‘stages’ in a process. These things work in concert throughout any process. Both planners and activators will be more effective when they consider the intersubjectivity of the group and leverage the others’ abilities, rather than pausing to make room for different perspectives. This is my current mission! Thanks for the discussion.
Dan, that is what leadership is all about. The leader has to make a decision whether to hold back or go full steam ahead.
Dan, Dan, Dan . . . you’ve found me out! I am so naturally a plan-on-the-fly guy. And if I’m flying solo and left to my own devices, that’s typically how I proceed. But for those times when we are leading others in response to a client’s wishes, it’s very important to have a strong sense of what your client is comfortable with; and with your team members’ tendencies.
I have clients that need big meetings and want lots of research and planning. Then I have other clients that prefer small, targeted meetings, and building the specifcs as we go. The same goes for my staff: there are the ones who want to get in and “git ‘er dun” — and others who have to do a complete work breakdown structure before they start. A leader’s role is to know everyone’s characteristics and preferences — and knowing this, to communicate thoroughly and manage everyone’s expectations accordingly.
Last paragraph captures the essence of the post. Every act is motivated based on the context. Whether it is forward movers or stoppers, all are motivated to do something. So, in a sense, motivation is not necessarily good or bad concept. As you have rightly mentioned about the context. The context where leaders are more shaky and fearful, people tend to become stoppers whereas where leaders are honest and not much fearful about their position, people tend to become forward movers. However, I also believe that despite context, there are people who believe in what is right. And I do believe that “Intention” plays significant role in defining the direction of motivation. It means, wrong intention could force in negative/stoppers direction whereas positive intention could force in positive direction.
So, tension between promoters and preventors is leadership philosophy and practices. This is an important aspect that provide direction for motivation. There is also other way which is challenging and difficult to follow. That is self motivation based on moral values and ethics. These qualities should be generally top down, but even if they are not, people can practice them. And they will yield positive result.
Well put Dan. It is a bit yin and yang but you need both in the workplace and I can see myself in both roles at various times.
One perspective that has helped me is to view questions from the planning and detail person as their involvement in how to make the vision a reality rather than putting spokes in the wheel to stop it. They are committed to my same vision, but they are wondering how to make it happen.
A confused post! While you are trying to distinguish the role of promoters and preventors, you are undermining the specific importance of planning. It’s wrong to conclude that good planning requires a lengthy process and time consuming! A misleading post indeed what I felt at the end. Promoters fancy ideas get a reality phase only with adequate planning with minimizing the risk involved.
Just about everything that functions well in life has a sense of balance to it. Its the Yin Yang or polarity that that allows for true progress. Too much planning and it never gets off the paper, too much activating and you get lost in a cloud of dust. In this analogy I think of a good leader as the fulcrum or pivot, constantly seeking to balance the energy on both sides of the see/saw. Anyone who can do that effectively is someone I want to work for.
Dan, I see this over and over with sales and service departments. Have you seen it in any other area?
Dan – another way of explaining this observation is simply that we all have different internal levels of risk aversion. These levels can change based on how closely the situation comes to a previous experience, or any number of other factors. A good explanation of this (and an interactive test you can take to determine your own levels of risk aversion) can be found here: http://www.sambaker.com/econ/riska/riska.html
I believe that any team success requires planning ahead, promoters and preventers are a good combination in any organization for example if in a marriage the 2 partners are spenders that is bad and the same if they are both cheap but if they are opposite one will promote spending on an item and the preventer will oppose with logic reason until they agree at the end to the right decision