How to Manage Red and Green Heads
Sometimes I feel like I’m surrounded by red heads.
There are two types of people on every team, those who see how it can be done – green thinkers – and those who see how it can’t – red thinkers. Both are dangerous. Both are necessary.
Green thinking: We’ll figure it out as we go. Uncertainty invigorates and energizes.
Red thinking: We’ll figure it out before we go. Clarity invigorates and energizes.
Red thinkers irritate green thinkers with too many questions and details.
Green thinkers frustrate red thinkers with too many new ideas.
Teams are stronger when they collide and collaborate.
Rise above, “It won’t work – yes it will,” conversations.
Getting the ball rolling:
Keep long-term goals in mind. Focus on short-term progress.
Ask red heads:
- What are you trying to accomplish? Why does it matter?
- What happens if we do nothing?
- What points of clarity are important?
- How might we move forward without harming something?
- On a scale of 1-10 how important is this initiative? Why didn’t you choose a lower number?
Ask green heads:
- What are the key success factors and how might we address them?
- What happens if we move forward?
- What are you trying to accomplish? Why does it matter?
- How will you communicate this to our organization?
- On a scale of 1-10 how important is this initiative? Why didn’t you choose a higher number?
Small or big:
Small wins often have disproportionately large benefits. Small losses often have disproportionately small consequences. Patterns are the main issue. Is there a pattern of small wins or small losses?
Take more risks when things are going well.
In cases of low negative impact lean toward green thinkers.
Lean toward red thinkers in high impact, high visibility initiatives.
How might leaders maximize collisions of perspective?
**Read, “Focus,” for more on this topic.
Nice comparisons! leaders need to layout the project and coordinate the path, The doers need to get it done with their expertise. Someone needs to take charge and say this is what the customer wants and get all parties working together on common ground. You can leave options as long as we meet the customers demands.
On the other side of the fence its best to let them (workers) discuss their options based on experiences,as they may save time and money in the long run with perhaps view points, that can be over looked when we have our blinders on.. Then there are days you have to ” think out of the box” too. It’s nice to cove ones backside when dealing with customers! They want what they want!
Thanks Tim. The idea of “coordinating the path,” is fascinating. For me, it includes bringing diverse perspectives together to ignite and fuel forward movement. I’m not sure that’s how you meant it. But, you got me thinking.
Yes diverse perspectives is what we have when we put workers together often on common ground, then again the older experienced guys “Green heads” guide the “Red heads” most of the time! Sometimes the Red heads need to be coordinated to get on the same page, they can be bull headed too, until they get their feet on the ground.
Thanks Tim for a simple approach of behaviors, great post! I forwarded this to my my friends in leadership positions.
Wow, Dan. This aligns with something I discovered some twenty years ago, and have used as a means of balancing team dynamics ever since. In my universe the viewpoints are called conceptual thinkers (green) and literal thinkers (red). The paradigm works because most of us are a combination of both in varying measures. Thanks. Now I gotta go make some short-term progress.
Sent this to my husband thinking it would help us with our situation on building a new home…told him he was a red head….I got the reply back of “I have never had red hair you are the red head” He didn’t even read past that….just automatic “nope” *lol* He is a true red head for sure!
As a red head, I’m not sure how I should take this post . . . ; )
Hi Dan…Respect both, I always acknowledge perspectives and show appreciation for input. Have a nice weekend!
We had a couple of red thinkers dominating two meetings this week, when there should have been only one meeting. Every time we thought we were making progress, those two would go scurrying off into the weeds again. That’s their comfort zone. I love your graphic, Dan!
Thanks for this post. We don’t always face these people on the job, but in our day to day lives. My dad is a BIG RED thinker. He has no faith in whatever you do until you can prove him wrong. #AintNobodyGotTimeForThat ..
No matter the problem, goal, or circumstance, I no longer share my life plans with him, just let him bask in the ambiance afterwards.
Thanks for venting for me! Be blessed!
I love the concepts in this post. Many years ago, I completed a Kolbe Index which basically aligns the greens and reds just as you say. I’m a serious green who works mainly with reds (and blues – organizers), it can be challenging on both sides. The key is to get a good balance of both.
My brother once described this as people are either a ‘no, because…’ person or a ‘yes, if…’ person. I like to say it as ‘Negative Nellie (or Nell)’ and ‘Positive Polly (or Paul)’. For me it has less to do with where they focus (long or short term goals/progress) and more to do with their attitude towards supporting the corporate/leadership goals. I don’t want someone constantly telling me ONLY why it won’t work. I’d rather have people surrounding me that will say ‘if you want this to work, you’re going to have to overcome x, y, and z and put a, b, and c into place first’. Thanks for the insightful posts each week! 🙂
Red Heads often tend to be the reason nothing gets done. In my last job there was an abundance of Red Heads who had mastered the art of delay out of fear that if something went wrong they would be blamed.