How Doers and Dreamers Drive Each Other Crazy
One of my biggest regrets as a leader is misunderstanding the unique viewpoints of Doers, Dreamers, and Feelers.
Doers and Dreamers face resistance, obstacles, and failure differently.
Doers push through. Dreamers adapt quickly.
The first inclination of a Doer is to buckle down and make the current plan work. Doers change reluctantly.
The first inclination of a Dreamer is to suggest alternatives. “Why don’t we try…?” Or, “Oh boy! We could…!” Change is like Christmas morning to Dreamers. “What’s next?”
Let the craziness begin:
Dreamers love to shake things up. Doers love to nail things down.
Doers don’t want five new alternatives. They want to figure out how to make the current plan work. Dreamers are like lawn chairs in a hurricane.
Dreamers stress out Doers when they offer suggestion after suggestion.
Organizations led by dreamers struggle to keep up with all the changes. Doers want to settle down and create stability.
Dreamers create chaos. Doers go stagnant.
Maximize the difference:
Doers create stability. You’re a train wreck without them. Lean toward the Doer orientation when you’ve started too many things and finished too few.
When Doers are frustrated, don’t offer five new alternatives.
- “What isn’t working?” Doers are great at being judgmental.
- “What needs to stop?” Doers hate waste.
- “What’s making this work?” Doers love a smooth running machine.
Focus your Dreamers. Ask, “What would make the current plan work?” If you don’t rein them in, Dreamers are off to the races. Narrow their attention to one thing.
Lean toward Dreamers when you need options. Lean toward Doers when making decisions.
How might might teams maximize the differences between Doers and Dreamers without going nuts?
Here’s what you missed over the weekend:
The Surprising Face of Belief: Leadership lessons from falling out of a tree and crashing a skateboard.
Don’t Believe Your Momma: Fear is resistance to greatness.
Nice. Alternative thinking patterns underlie most of this, I find. People process information differently. In the NLP literature, there is a framework on Information Sorting Styles that frames up this issue simply as Possibilities / Outcomes. And I have seen this often within a management team in how they react to things.
Some people think about possibilities as their main pattern, a “What if…” kind of preference, while others tend to sort for Outcomes, a kind of “What next…” pattern. It is just a preference, but it expresses itself in what they prefer to do.
And we find it we simply expose this preference, it tends so smooth out a lot of the bumps.
Similarly, some people sort for the Past (That is like…) while some are anchored into the Present reality while others would prefer to think about how it could be, in the Future. Some people like to think in small details while some prefer the bigger chunks, some random and some sequential.
It is just a preferred pattern of thinking…
Thanks for your consistent contributions to the conversation, Dr. Scott. I’m with you, exposing and respecting the differences is a huge step in maximizing them.
Thanks also for the reference to sorting styles. Love it.
Dr Scott, I do like the expansion on patterns beyond the doer, dreamer, feeler paradigm. The human race is a never ending pool of variety that really does inspire, amaze and create possibilities.
I suspect identifying the traits is one prerequisite to successful leadership, which requires the ability to comprehend the infinitely variable nature of people and then sort this into attributes / characterisations that make sense. This is closely followed by the ability to influence and coordinate these wonderfully individual team members to adapt and overcome each obstacle that presents itself. The ability to trust each other and work as a team, harnessing individual strength for the greater good, is really what sets the human race apart.
“Lean toward Dreamers when you need options. Lean toward Doers when making decisions”.
Thanks Jody! Great hearing from you.
I think it would help to ensure at the outset that both understand the importance of the other to their success. That without the other, something critical is likely to be missed. Without a cultural backdrop of making space for and valuing dreamers and doers the team is vulnerable to shutting out the less dominant competency or orientation to the detriment of the team.
Have a great day!
Thanks Lori. Yes! There’s great power in seeing value and strength in others. That doesn’t mean they do all things well or are equally valuable in all situations.
Yesterday, a leader told me about an interovert he has on his team. He gives him work that allows him to work alone more than with others.
In order for teams to function effectively, we must understand the people sitting around the table.
Hi Dan. I think that’s the key – understanding the people sitting round the table, and encouraging them to value each others’ strengths (as well as recognise what they are!). That way, members of teams don’t get so frustrated with each other, and they learn to value each other in a practical way by factoring in those strengths.
Thanks New… Sounds great to me. Perhaps developing shared language would be useful. Meyers Briggs and StrengthFinders might help. Maybe something as simple as doer, dreamer, feeler.
Just talking about it might help.
Hi Dan – thanks for getting back. Yes, talking about it does help. I’ve facilitated team conversations along these lines where frustrations have been running high. Providing that facilitated space where people can discuss, ruminate and learn about each other in a meaningful way helps. I find Drivers a useful way of describing different aspects of individuals (Be Strong, Be Perfect, Hurry Up, Please People, Try Hard – and any one person can exhibit two or more rarely three of these). Another useful exercise is asking people to imagine themselves in the other person’s shoes. What would it feel like to be that other person? How would that other person view you yourself? Some people have never looked at things in that way, and it can be quite enlightening… And by the way, I’m Alison! Good to chat… 🙂 newbycoachlive is the name of my wordpress blog…
I think it helps doers and dreamers to simply recognize each other. If we are open to discuss whether we are a doer or dreamer publicly, it helps to ease tension and lets us work with each other more effectively.
Thanks Christopher. Exactly. And most people intuitively know who they are when you ask. If they don’t, just ask if they get excited starting things or finishing things.
Of course the danger is pigeonholing people is real. We need to remember that we are all part doer, dreamer, and feeler. Even though one quality/outlook is dominant.
What I have learned over the years is to move to Dreamer mode when I want options. Once I lay the options out I shift to Doer mode and attack the options. I guess I am a bit different in that as I can bridge both options though my primary mode is Doer. What bugs me is Dreamers on our team (in particular one) who are all over the place all the time. He continually gets frustrated when the Doers on the team insist on some stability and clarity in order to move things forward. Its almost as if he wants the chaos that his continual dreams cause and he enjoys the shaking up (ie he feels important and in charge as his dreams are expressed most times in an arrogant and condescending manner). Sometimes we dread when he comes into the room as chaos and lack of clarify will ensue. He is extremely talented and his dreams usually have some merit but lack clarity of purpose and direction that can be sellable and profitable.
Thanks Roger. People have asked me if we can be both. I don’t think we can be both. But I think we can learn how to be the other. It’s helpful to read that you see yourself as primarily a doer, but you have learned to leverage dreamer skills. I think this is powerful.
I notice that some dreamers like to see the inadequacy of an idea and go chace something else. They don’t bring value to the conversation. They just start a new one.
I find asking something like, “How can you bring your creativity to the idea on the table?” helps sometimes. However, there are some who simply like to blow things up.
Frankly a little kind candor might be in order. Would it be appropriate for us to say to these ‘dreamers on steroids’ that the team dreads it when they come into the room?
If we the “Doers” propose to the “Dreamers” a vision interpretation, a scope of work, diagram, sketch etc., now you have a beginning for both parties to work with, after listening to the “Dreamer”. In doing so we have established a foundation to work from in building the Dreamers vision, the picture needs to be seen clearly by all participants. You can control some with structured questions, steering them to get on the same page. If they deviate, restructure your questions, eventually it will all come together. If it doesn’t, move on to the next Dreamer who is right around the corner. They all play a role in the marketplace, your correct “we can learn how to be the other” for sure.
Thanks Tim. A standard creative process might be helpful. Your comment makes me think that a repeatable pattern might create stability and allow dreamers and doers to interact effectively.
Exactly you can create patterns with key questions, similar visions, previous experiences etc. It can actually be Black and White.
The other side of the conversation are the Dreamers who just stir the kettle constantly, you say right they say left etc., accept what you control and learn to maneuver what you can sway toward middle road and compromise, not always attainable, yet worth trying. Really comes down to what is acceptable to all players.
As a dreamer, I find this article very accurate! Thanks for articulating it so well. I do find that you provide some great ideas on the strengths of doers and maybe fewer thoughts on the strengths of dreamers. Am I being biased here, simply because I am a dreamer? After reading, I felt that I would be better of as a doer!