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Taskmaster. Ringleader. Dinosaur. What Are You?

“It helps identify (or confirms suspicions of) the more difficult personality types that might be detractors to an collaborative initiative.”
What kind of collaborator are you?

We suspect you’re familiar with the concept of “leading with your strengths.” Marcus Buckingham, a strategist who champions the idea, identified nine “strength” roles — adviser, connector, creator, equalizer, influencer, pioneer, provider, stimulator, and teacher — that any of us may play.

His theory is quite basic: If you can identify which role best fits your personality, you can become a better leader. For example, if your strength is educating others, make teaching the focus of your interactions and discretionary time. Don’t drain yourself trying to be a pioneer if that’s not who you are.

Central Desktop, a maker of online-collaboration and project-management software, has developed a team-oriented twist on the “strengths” concept. The company, whose customers include CBS, MLB.com, and Harvard University, identified nine types of collaborators within organizations: dinosaur, executive, expert, ringleader, siloist, skeptic, socialite, stealth ninja, and taskmaster.

The overall idea is the same: If you can identify which type of collaborator you (and each of your teammates) are, then you’re better positioned not only to contribute to collaborative efforts, but also to lead them, by selecting methods that best complement the personalities in the room.

So, which type of collaborator are you?

Take Central Desktop’s nine-question quiz to find out. When you’re done, ask your teammates to take it, too. Why? First of all, quizzes are fun. Second, the results can help your team plan a big project, notes Linda Souza, Central Desktop’s vice president of marketing.

The Build Network, having taken the quiz and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, recently talked with Souza to learn more. Here’s an excerpt of our interview.

TBN: So, let’s say a management team — or any team, really — takes the quiz and learns which of the nine types its members are. What then? We all know a one-size-fits-all approach is no good. Can you provide an example of how a team or project leader could use knowledge gleaned from the quiz to modify his or her approach?

Souza: We’ve had a few customers who have used the nine collaborators as part of their collaboration implementation process/rollout. It serves a few purposes:

• The quiz is a fun way to engage people early on in the implementation. It gets people talking about it and sharing results in a fun way. Any time you can get people involved early on, it will help with overall user adoption.

• It helps identify (or confirms suspicions of) more difficult personality types that might be detractors to the initiative. Specifically, customers have looked for dinosaurs and skeptics. Skeptics are the more dangerous. While dinosaurs may drag their heels and be resistant to change, skeptics come in two varieties: the ones who may question and challenge but ultimately have good intentions, and those who you can never win over no matter what you do and who will poison the well if you don’t proactively manage them.

• For the most part, you’re looking for the people who you can recruit to help champion the project. Collaboration doesn’t work if it’s just you pushing! And you’re looking for the people who may derail your project, so you can manage that before it becomes a problem.

TBN: Are there certain combinations that are better or worse for collaborations? Would it be advisable for a team to have diversity among the nine types? Is any team in trouble without a taskmaster or with too many siloists or skeptics? What can you tell us about ideal mixtures — and the different ways of managing different mixtures?

Souza: Diversity among team members is almost a guarantee. I don’t think I’ve seen a situation where a company didn’t have most, if not all, collaborator types. There are definite combinations that are better and worse. (See the graphic.)

Ideally, you’d just want to make sure you separate potentially destructive behavior types, so they don’t feed off one another. For example, a skeptic can rally a dinosaur and a siloist, whereas alone they might not make too many waves. Conversely, if you can get one of your power users to help rally other users and get them engaged, your overall user adoption will be much better.



Before he ventured out on his own, Buckingham worked for Gallup. In 2001, he coauthored Now, Discover Your Strengths with Donald O. Clifton.

Although the book has been around for more than a decade, it made the news recently when Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg told the New York Times Sunday Book Review that it was the best business book she’d read lately.

“This book has been instrumental in how we think about developing talent at Facebook,” Sandberg told the Times. “Like all organizations, we have a system for giving feedback to our employees. A few years ago, Lori Goler, Facebook’s head of human resources, brought Marcus to meet with our leadership team to help us improve this system. Marcus and his colleagues surveyed employees for 25 years to figure out what factors predict extraordinary performance. They found that the most important predictor of the success of a company or division was how many people answered yes to the question ‘Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?’”

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