In the Fast Lane with a Stalled Engine? Getting Your Executive Team in Gear.

Friday, September 8, 2023

In the throes of a rapidly evolving market, is your leadership team seemingly paralyzed? Are they struggling to make effective decisions and solve critical problems? You are not alone; I have seen these frustrations in leaders of both small and large companies. They share a similar challenge. The global business environment doesn’t just demand innovation – it craves velocity. Rapid, agile responses to shifting sands have become the norm. There is no time for decision-making processes to be marathon sessions, brimming with debate, but bereft of conclusion.

Today, an executive team that isn’t nimble, cohesive, and effective in its problem-solving approach could mean missed opportunities, or worse, obsolescence.

To kickstart effective collaboration, many leaders venture down the well-trodden path of teambuilding exercises and personality assessments.They describe fleeting camaraderie and sparks of insights into individual behaviors, but the core issue remains unresolved.

In many cases, the root of the problem is unawareness of the creative problem-solving cycle and the team dynamics stemming from the interaction of each team member’s preferred style.

From many years of observation and practice, Dr. Min Basadur identified four main problem-solving styles that people might lean towards:

  1. Generator: Generators are naturally curious and good at identifying problems. They excel in the initial stages of the problem-solving process, where the task is to pinpoint opportunities and challenges. They're open-minded and often are interested in WHAT. “What’s going on? What’s new? What problem can be solved? What opportunity might be grasped?”
  2. Conceptualizer: Once problems are identified, the role of the conceptualizer comes into play. Conceptualizers are adept at formulating potential solutions to problems. They are big-picture thinkers who are comfortable dealing with abstract ideas and making connections between disparate pieces of information to     come up with some initial concepts for a solution. They are interested in WHY. “Why is this problem important?” They want to see the big picture. Also, they want to understand the problem and discover the most impactful way to define it as an opportunity.
  3. Optimizer: Optimizers take potential solutions and refine them, making them feasible and effective. Their creativity comes from sorting through the solutions by developing realistic criteria for evaluating them. They're analytical thinkers who are focused on HOW. How can this work best type questions. “How can we ensure that solutions are viable and can be executed in a practical manner?”
  4. Implementer: The implementer style is about action. Once a solution has been optimized, implementers take charge of putting it into practice. They're doers who work on the ground, ensuring that the solution gets executed. Their interest lies in WHERE and WHEN. “Where and when can we get started?” “Where and when do we need to get acceptance of this before we can go ahead?”

Working together, these four styles comprise the four stages of the creative problem-solving process and innovative solutions.

If you’re like most leaders, who are learning this for the first time, you may be picturing in your mind different team members, who fit these descriptions.

When leadership teams are unaware of these different styles, or when they don’t value the unique strengths of each style, conflicts can arise.  Some are in mismatched priorities, communication breakdowns, failure to synergize diverse thinking styles, implementation struggles, and all too often simple stagnation.

To learn more about these dynamic tensions and how you can effectively deal with them you might want to check out the soon-to-be-published book, Entrepreneurship for Leaders, and the chapter on “Your Entrepreneurial Style & Why It Matters.