Working Genius: A New Tool in the Toolbox

Zach Hughes
5 min readAug 4, 2023

I am a personality & leadership assessment junkie. I’ve written about MBTI and StrengthFinder on this blog. I’ve also taken DiSC, InColor Insight, Enneagram, and countless others. I take Greek philosophy’s maxim, “Know Thyself” very seriously.

I also believe that there’s no such thing as a well-rounded person. Sometimes our performance management and education systems are designed to create well-rounded employees, but that’s a fool’s errand.

People aren’t well-rounded. But teams can be.

This has been a theme on this blog and a constant pursuit of my leadership career. As you all know, I read a lot of leadership books. Most don’t get mentioned here. But I read one recently that struck me as particularly important. I read “The 6 Types of Working Genius: A Better Way to Understand Your Gifts, Your Frustrations, and Your Team” by Patrick Lencioni.

A new tool

A leader’s challenge has been the same for quite a while: Assemble a diverse team with the right mix of talent to accomplish big goals. Here’s the problem: the tools to accomplish this task have been a little clunky. Some aren’t inherently business focused. Others are complex and require a lot of time, money, and energy to use effectively.

So, to Patrick Lencioni’s credit, his team developed something that’s honed directly to the business environment and is very quick and easy to use. I have no affiliation with Patrick Lencioni, so I’m simply sharing this with my community of leadership practitioners because I found it valuable.

The tool is called “The 6 Types of Working Genius,” or just “Working Genius” for short. The six types are specific areas that are required for accomplishing any kind of work endeavor. Here are the six types:

  • Wonder: identifies the need for improvement or change
  • Invention: confirms the importance of that need, and generates an idea or solution
  • Discernment: assesses the merit and workability of the idea or solution
  • Galvanizing: generates enthusiasm and action around the idea or solution
  • Enablement: initiates support and assists in the implementation of the idea or solution
  • Tenacity: commits to ensuring that the idea or solution gets completed and that desired results are achieved

Of the six, there are two that give you joy, energy, and passion. These are your “Working Geniuses.” There are two that are competencies, but not particularly joyful or painful. These are your “Working Competencies.” Finally, there are two that are draining and dissatisfying. These are your “Working Frustrations.”

This makes sense to me. It fits my understanding that no one is well-rounded. Some may think they can do all of these equally well, and while that may be true, they will wear themselves out trying. Why not work as a team, and partner up with people that get energized from what drains you?

It’s easy

Clearly, this is well-fitted to the working environment, but that’s not the best part. This is easy to use. Unbelievably easy. You don’t need to hire a facilitator and spend a whole day or multiple days in class. You don’t even need to read the book. The audio version is only 4 hours, but you can skip it if you must.

You can get value out of this tool in one hour and ten minutes for the reasonable price of $25/team member. Again, I’m not selling this, but as business tools go, this one has a very low barrier to entry. It’s cheaper than taking the team out for dinner and takes less time.

You can get the assessment at workinggenius.com. It takes 10 minutes. You can send it to your team members, then as they complete it, you get the results in what they call a “team map” which displays your team members all together so you can see how you cover the various working geniuses. You even get the facilitation steps to run your one-hour session to go over the results and apply them.

You can spend more time and money on this if you want to take it further, but this do-it-yourself method is so attractive, that’s what I’m going with.

What about me?

Whenever I’ve discussed topics like this, I’ve given you a window into how I’m wired. My Working Geniuses are Wonder and Discernment. When I engage in these activities, it doesn’t even feel like work. My Working Competencies are Invention and Tenacity. I can and often perform these activities without issue. My Working Frustrations are Galvanizing and Enablement. These are critically important, but I personally find them exhausting.

My Working Genius pairing of Wonder and Discernment is called “The Contemplative Counselor” which is described as “A thoughtful, insightful, and nuanced advisor. Slow to declare certainty but deep in wisdom, intuition, and rationale.” Seems spot-on to me. Remember two weeks ago, when I told you my team called me “Yoda?” That was completely independent of this exercise.

Here’s the great news. This week, I ran through the team map exercise with both the team I lead and the team I am on. In both cases, we covered all the Working Geniuses in our teams. How cool is that? No wonder we are so high-performing. But we still have work to do. I’ll think about this whenever we assemble new project teams and product teams. I’ll think about it in my future reorganizations. I believe this tool in my toolbox will get a lot of use.

Read this article on my blog site or listen to it on my podcast🎙️

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Zach Hughes

Technology Leader at CHS. Passionate about leadership and innovation. Posts are my own.