The Synergist Chapter 3

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Chapter 3: The Operator: Yay…let’s build a rocket ship


Poor Brad. His heart is in the right place and his get up and go attitude has made him a great asset in bringing in sales to his organization. But the flip side of this has been a contributory factor to a whole host of internal problems.

Operators provide a great reality check to teams, help eliminate unnecessary implementation steps and can identify redundant or overly complicated systems or processors. However their impatience, desire to find workarounds and then seek forgiveness coupled with their unwillingness to comply make it difficult for them to fit in a team context and can cause them to appear to be a maverick.

Just like with the Visionary there are a number of strategies we can employ on a day to day basis to help make our interactions with an Operator positive and to channel their intense focus on task completion to achieve some amazing things.

Use the links below to click through the resources to work through the resources for Chapter Three and discover more about what it is to be an Operator and how to engage with them positively.

If you’re an Operator yourself (find out here) read through the resources and try to put yourself in the position of a Non-Operator. You may learn a thing or two about working with you that may surprise you.

We’d love to know what you thought of the resources for Chapter Three. What did you like? What didn’t you like? What would you like to see more of? Or less of? What did you think of Chapter Three? Did you discover anything interesting or unusual? Leave a comment below and join in the discussion.

Chapter 3 Resources

ARTICLE: Inside the Mind of an Operator

Check out this illuminating comic from the Wall Street Journal. It’s a good representation of the mind-set of the Operator “Just let me get out and do it!”

Click here to view.

Worksheet: The Operator

We have a series of exercises covering the key themes of the chapter including; characteristics of an Operator, their strengths and weaknesses and how to deal with an Operator as a peer, boss or direct report. They’re great to do on your own but even better to do them in a group.

Click here to download the worksheet.

Activity: Ready for Action

We have three scenarios to put yourself in the position of working with an Operator as a peer, boss and direct report. How will you handle it?

Click here to download the activity.

Flashcards: Working with an Operator

Three flashcards for dealing with an Operator in different situations. Cut them out, put them in your purse of wallet and pull them out when you need help with a particular situation or person.

Click here to download the flashcards.

Case Study: Leaving an Operator in Charge, Lessons from Steve Ballmer

Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer are a textbook example of the Visionary/Operator mix required to grow an organization. Gates set the vision and Ballmer made it happen. When Gates left Ballmer in charge, the Vision walked out the door and Microsoft declined. This case study illustrates the issues faced by Microsoft over the last decade with an Operator at the helm.

Click here to download the case study.


You’ll find a growing selection of Operator related postings from Les’ regular blog here

External Resource: David Allen: Getting Things Done

Getting Things Done was mentioned in the chapter as a useful time management system for an Operator. GTD is one of the few outside methodologies we recommend and we subscribe to the principles heavily ourselves.

One of its key principles, defining the next action, resonates strongly with the Operator’s relentless focus on task completion. This is an excellent resource to share with your Operators but I would recommend it for anyone in your organization/team/group who is looking for a better productivity system.

Click here to buy the book.

Watch David in action at the Do Lectures. We’ve been a fan of the Do Lectures for a couple of years and Les was one of the speakers at the event last year. This 20 minute talk will give you an overview of the GTD methodology.

Click here to watch.

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