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Working Genius

Here at Leader’s Edge we always want to pass along things we are learning and resources we have discovered that will help you gain an edge in life and leadership. Today I want to do that by sharing information on a new assessment by Patrick Lencioni called Working Genius. It is designed to help every leader figure out what energizes and what drains them, and where their best contribution originates. I am currently having all of our teams do it because it is so good.


Patrick Lencioni noticed that no matter how long or how well a leader leads, some things continue to frustrate almost every leader. He discovered that the frustrations are tied to their strengths and weaknesses. Each of us falls primarily into areas of expertise, and Patrick explains six types of Working Genius and how to use the insights to best position yourself and your team. It will lower frustration and maximize effectiveness.


Lencioni explains why his model is so helpful:


“Far too many people in the world suffer needlessly because they don't understand their personal areas of working genius. As a result, they don't do the kind of work that gives them joy and energy, and they end up in jobs and projects that are draining and demoralizing. This is a grave tragedy on two levels.


First, it leads those people to lose confidence in themselves and enthusiasm for life, which is devastating for them, their families and friends, and society as a whole. That alone is heartbreaking.


Second, organizations and teams–even families–that don't tap into the true genius of their members can't come close to realizing their potential. They are left puzzled by their inability to achieve their goals. This often leads them to make inaccurate and hurtful judgements about one another, and to feel unnecessarily guilty about their own shortcomings.


What makes all of this particularly tragic is that it is avoidable. The solution is for everyone–employees, managers, students and spouses–to identify their areas of working genius, as well as their areas of life-draining weakness, and to put themselves in a position to tap into their genius more and engage in their weakness less. That is what this assessment is all about. When you identify your areas of working genius, as well as your areas of life-draining weakness, you put yourself in a position to tap into your natural gifts and are able to achieve more in every aspect of life.”


Everyone has natural talents when it comes to work. According to Lencioni, there are six different types of gifts that are required of any group of people trying to get something done.

These natural giftings, or working geniuses, fall into the following six categories:

  • The Genius of Wonder: the natural gift of pondering the possibility of greater potential and opportunity in a given situation

  • The Genius of Invention: the natural gift of creating original and novel ideas and solutions

  • The Genius of Discernment: the natural gift of intuitively and instinctively evaluating ideas and situations

  • The Genius of Galvanizing: the natural gift of rallying, inspiring, and organizing others to take action

  • The Genius of Enablement: the natural gift of providing encouragement and assistance for an idea or a project

  • The Genius of Tenacity: the natural gift of pushing projects or tasks to completion to achieve results

Every person finds their abilities organized in the following ways:

  • Two areas of Working Genius – These come naturally to you, meaning that you are good at them and they give you energy and joy.

  • Two areas of Working Competencies – You can do these fairly well, maybe even very well, but you don’t derive great joy or energy from them.

  • Two areas of Working Frustrations – These areas are neither natural nor energizing for you, and most likely you aren’t particularly good at doing them.

Unlike other personality tests, The Six Types of Working Genius focuses on the actual talents and stages required to get work completed, thus showcasing a potent opportunity for leaders and teams.


Without tapping into the true genius of their members, organizations and teams cannot even approach reaching their potential. They are bewildered by their inability to achieve their goals. This often leads them to relational crisis, as they make inaccurate and hurtful judgments about one another. They feel unnecessarily guilty about their own shortcomings. As a leader, knowing your team composition and ensuring all areas are represented will lead to greater productivity and innovation.


Lencioni and his colleagues at The Table Group created this model in the past four months, and it’s already been tested by thousands. It came out of a desire to better understand why people are drawn to enjoy certain aspects of their work and not others, and where they seem to thrive. For example, if a team discovers that they have several Working Genius types represented but are missing one or two, the team may find itself experiencing a gap. When they know what is missing, they may suddenly understand some of the challenges they’re facing and what they need to do to bridge the gap.


For instance, if no one on the team has the Working Genius of Galvanizing, it’s easy to see how that could impact morale and motivation on key priorities and projects. If there’s no Genius of Invention represented, chances are the organization may be missing out on key innovation opportunities.


Tapping into this model can also help individuals understand themselves better and extend more grace to one another. If someone has Tenacity as a Working Frustration, the reason they don’t finish projects on time is likely not personal. They may need to be paired up with someone who does have Tenacity as a Working Genius. If someone has the Working Genius of Wonder and isn’t utilizing it, it’s time to start tapping it


Lencioni explains:


1) Nobody should feel bad about wanting to use their God-given talent. We’re here to serve others by using the talents we have. Instead of feeling guilty about it, lean into it. You are meant to pursue your geniuses.


2) When you figure out what your working genius and working frustrations are, it can change your career and your life.


3) Doing things outside of your working genius will exhaust you, so it’s best to limit the amount of exposure to those.


I am believing this is going to greatly help our teams. I hope it helps you. If you are interested, here is a link to a podcast where you can learn more: https://careynieuwhof.com/episode391/ .

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