If we could capture the essence of the Pioneer in one word, it would be POSSIBILITIES. Pioneers love imagining what could be and don’t hesitate to reach beyond the status quo. Expressions like “What if…?”, “Picture this…”, “Yes, and…”, and “Why not?” are music to a Pioneer’s ears, and often are lead-ins to lively brainstorms. Pioneers are big fans of collaborative idea generation. They’re very comfortable with ambiguity, and highly adaptable to change—whether they’re the ones initiating it, as is often the case, or not.
Strong Pioneers tend to be easy to spot because they’re typically high energy and outgoing. They’re the ones you can hear all the way down the hallway before you even get to the conference room. Or more likely, you’ll hear them coming down the hallway as you wait in the conference room, because they’ll be running late. They have little regard for rigid structure, and an almost allergic aversion to details. That agenda the team put together so painstakingly? Don’t expect the Pioneers to follow it. Their thinking can be non-linear and resists constraint. That detailed review of the pivot table analysis you had planned? Their eyes will blur and their minds will wander as you strain what paltry patience they possess. But give them a juicy, open-ended challenge and a whiteboard, and they’ll be formidable idea generators.
Pioneers often think while speaking, formulating their opinions as they talk. It’s one reason they like working in teams (after all, a Pioneer in a fishbowl office talking to him or herself can look a little strange). Those able to follow a Pioneer’s vocal stream of consciousness will note the non-linear way they tend to jump from one thought to the next. And don’t expect any long, awkward pauses in conversation—a Pioneer will be only too happy to fill them.
Don’t expect Pioneers to stick to any one task or activity for long. They tune out and are easily distracted. In their eagerness to move onto the next thing (same old same old is sooooo boring), Pioneers usually make decisions quickly and spontaneously, based on gut feel versus any careful consideration of the data. Pioneers are very comfortable with risk, and are likely confident that their inherent adaptability will carry them through, regardless of where they land.
Overall the Pioneer working style is fast, fun, and free of inconvenient facts that might inhibit possibilities. Indeed, there are few things that Pioneers dislike more than someone raining on their parade. For a Pioneer, it’s more important to expand upon what could be than to analyze why it can’t be, because for Pioneers, there is rarely such a thing as a dead end. Isn’t there always another option, another path that hasn’t been considered? That’s how Pioneers see it. They generally believe that where there’s a will—and a great idea—there’s a way. The problem is, finding the way usually entails a devil of details that the Pioneer has little tolerance for, and thus leaves (dumps) in the hands of others.
Pioneers have more fun. No really, it’s true, and fun is a word they use frequently as if to reinforce the point. These free-wheeling, idea-sparking, optimistic individuals bring positive energy to everything they do, and because they value diverse opinions and love to collaborate, they happily bring others along on their wild ride. Better still, since they mostly hang out in the rarified air of lofty ideas and big picture thinking, they don’t tend to stress about the pesky details or complex processes lurking underneath. Indeed, Pioneers are the least stressed of all types. So is it any great surprise that our research shows that, given a choice, more people would wish to be a Pioneer than any other type? (And that includes those who actually are Pioneers.) But they’re also the type others find most challenging to work with.
This is an excerpt from our book Business Chemistry: Practical Magic for Crafting Powerful Work Relationships (Wiley, 2018). Check it out to read what Kim Christfort and I write about the promise of Pioneers, and the problems with them too!