One Predictable Source of Tension on Teams

Tension between Dreamers and Doers is predictable and useful. Unfortunately, when misunderstood, tension creates drama and feels personal.

Mutual irritation:

Dreamers think about what will go right. Doers warn Dreamers about things that could go wrong.

Doers change after consideration and thrive with a plan. Dreamers figure things out as they go. Doers figure things out before they go.

If you’re a Dreamer:

Explain new ideas to Doers and ask:

  1. What do I need to be concerned about?
  2. What could go wrong?
  3. What am I forgetting?
  4. What dangers do you see?
  5. What needs to be done next?

It might seem like Doers try to kill ideas. In reality, they’re protecting people from failure. The potential danger Doers face is protecting too much.

If you’re a Doer:

Seek new ideas and ask:

  1. What untapped opportunities do you see?
  2. What might I try?
  3. How am I playing it safe?
  4. Where am I simply going through the motions?
  5. What excites you about this project or initiative?

Dreamers seem unrealistic to Doers. In reality, they’re driven to make things better. The potential danger Dreamers face is trying too many things.

(Yes, Doers love to make things better and Dreamers protect people from failure. It’s a matter of degree and first inclination.)

Navigating tensions:

At the beginning of an initiative, dream a bit. Think about what you want and what might work. Give ideas a chance to grow legs. But remember, dreams don’t change anything until something gets done.

After an idea is formed, listen closely to Doers. They know how to make things happen. When they see an issue, explore it. But remember, you don’t need to solve every issue today.

Note: Everyone is both Doer and Dreamer. But we all lean toward a preferred orientation. Success includes integrating both perspectives.

What observations might you make about Doers and Dreamers?

How might leaders/teams navigate tensions between Doers and Dreamers?