Guardians in Hell: How to Stop Killing Their Potential

*This second post in a four-part series is about a Guardian (one of four Business Chemistry types), how the wrong work environment kills her potential, and what could be done about it. Search #BCstories for post one of the series, about a Pioneer, and stay tuned for posts three and four, about a Driver and an Integrator, respectively (which I’ll also tag #BCstories).

Once a Guardian named Gwendolyn was given one month to coordinate the creation of a website illustrating her organization’s vision and how they were living it. This was a high-profile project dreamt up by the board, and one that lots of stakeholders deeply cared about. Was Gwen an expert on websites with a deep understanding of the vision? Did she have a broad network of connections to draw upon? Did she thrive in the role of herding cats? Not at all. She was highly skilled in other areas, but she got this particular project because she happened to be standing nearby when it was assigned. From her Guardian lens, this wasn’t a fairytale about being handed a golden opportunity. It was a horror story.

The good news was that because of the tight time frame, there were lots of resources (also known as people) assigned to the project. This was also bad news—lots of people to coordinate, and every one of them with strong opinions, hellbent on expressing them energetically, and all at the same time. Everyone was looking to her to make quick decisions but Gwen could barely think straight in their presence. And they seemed to be present all the time.

Gwen and her team were provided the “gift” of a dedicated section of their open-space work environment in which to collaborate. Because so many important people had a stake in the project, the team was expected to be visibly working together on site as much as possible. But that meant constant interruptions and no quiet place to think or to focus on the heads-down, detailed work that she, as a Guardian, typically excelled at. When she pointed this out to leadership they told her to stop being so inflexible—this is how innovative work gets done.

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