Collaborator: The Power of Play

Posted by Anthony Attan

Jan 18, 2013 10:18:00 AM

In Part 3 of the five-part blog series called The Patterns of FEBI, we swing-on into the Collaborator.  In this series we will explore each pattern measured by the FEBI.  The FEBI is a validated psychometric assessment and coaching tool that measures four fundamental patterns of personality and the various contexts in which they are expressed; cognition, physical movement, emotions, environment, etc.


Fighting off giant sea creatures and spiky turtle men to save Princess Peach and the Mushroom Kingdom.  Building a ladder to the moon out of trash, musical instruments and slices of pizza while dressed as a rabbit.  Racing a big squid car through an outer space race track called Rainbow Road.


You may think I’m describing plots to summer movies or the ramblings of a child’s Collaborator dogimaginations.  You would be mistaken.  I am actually describing a typical Saturday morning for my wife, Jennifer.  No, Jennifer is not from a magical land, nor a figment of my own imagination.  Come Saturday morning, Jennifer is a gamer.  Her games of choice are always of the creative, whimsical and playful variety.  I already know what some of you are thinking:  What a waste of time.  Isn’t Nintendo for children?  I would postulate that not only should we play and have fun, but that time spent doing so is of tremendous benefit to us.  The more childlike and whimsical the better!   


Let me explain.  During the week, Jennifer works for the Burn Rehab Unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital.  Her typical patients have burns over 90% of their body, are in tremendous physical and emotional pain, and if they make it past the first few weeks, have a long hospital stay ahead of them.  It’s Jennifer’s job to help in the rehabilitation process, which can range from wound care, to helping them sit up on their own, to teaching them how to walk again.  Recovery is only possible with continual work, which is often very hard and painful for the patients.  Painful as it is, day after day, Jennifer and the Burn Rehab team take their patients through their activities and treatments as they make incremental progress toward recovery.  The toughest days for Jennifer, she tells me, are the days she spends time with the family members, and all the emotions that go with it. 


In spite of this challenging job, Jennifer always has a huge smile and an infectious laugh.  Even her patients, who are usually in pain when they see her, adore Jennifer.  So back to taking on the whimsical world of Nintendo, Jennifer says, “With my job, I need this time just to keep my sanity!”  She’s right.  For us to be fully engaged, as Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz describe in their book The Power of Full Engagement, we need a rhythm between push and release, between drive and recover.  We need to recharge those batteries.  As Ginny Whitelaw describes in her latest book, The Zen Leader, we often take better care of our electronics then we do ourselves.  When our iPhone battery is about to die, we plug it in to recharge it but we often don’t take the time to recharge our own batteries.


I realize that for some of you, this seems like common sense.  Those of you with a strong preference for the Driver and Organizer patterns (that we covered in Parts I and II) may be less convinced that playing Nintendo can have benefits like helping you be better at your job.  So, for you left brainers out there, research shows that happier people are more helpful, creative, prosocial, charitable, altruistic, healthier, live longer, are more likely to marry, stay married longer, and have more close and casual friends.  At work, happy people take fewer sick days, receive better evaluations from their supervisors and from customers, stay loyal to their employers longer, show more helpful behaviors, are more innovative, have lower corporate healthcare costs, and have lower turnover rates. And our research shows that play – bringing out the pattern of the Collaborator – correlates with positive emotions.


Collaborator logoPlay is not only great for recharging your batteries outside of work, you can also engage this pattern at work, which makes work a lot more fun. The Collaborator pattern loves to have fun, to engage others, play in the give and take of relationships, and see both sides of a situation.  Imagine how powerful this pattern could be if you need to engage your employees while navigating an organizational change, or to problem solve a complex issue.  The Collaborator is often left out of the very situations where it is most needed.  In such situations, especially if you normally approach them with the Driver’s urgency or the Organizer’s seriousness, you may need to be more intentional about summoning the Collaborator.  But with a bit of practice, it will be easier and easier to do so.


To help with summoning and strengthening your inner Collaborator, download the Collaborator Pattern Energizer activity.  One of the best ways to engage this energy is with playful movements: rocking, swinging, dancing, or finding a way around obstacles in a video game. Build a fort with your kids, play ball with the dog in the park, or just be silly for no reason whatsoever. So next time you have the urge to shrink to the size of an ant and play in the digital grass on your TV screen, I say pick up that joy stick and get your game on!


Want to learn more about FEBI?  Join us on February 12th for the free webinar, Energize Yourself, Energize Your Business with FEBI.


Topics: FEBI, Focus Energy Balance Indicator, Coaching Tool, FEBI Certified Coach, managing energy, work-life balance, Collaborator

Decision Making - It's All About Paradoxes

Posted by Mark Kiefaber

Nov 8, 2012 1:59:00 PM

Have you worked in a company where the bosses couldn't make up their damn minds?  For awhile, the structure was decentralized so you and your fellow workers could stay close to the customers and be able to respond to their diverse needs.  Then, once that seemed to be going well, the company reorganized and centralized to be more systematic, consistent and control costs better.  Then, once that seemed to be going well, another re-organization was implemented to re-decentralize because all the cost saving and standardization had reduced individualized responsiveness and alienated customers?  I worked in companies where this happened, and I remember thinking, “Why don’t these geniuses up at the top justparadox make up their minds and stop this back and forth and stick with a decision? Why can’t they solve this once and for all?”  Have you ever asked the same thing?

Some years ago, I attended a seminar where the speaker, Barry Johnson, asked the group questions like these, and all of us grumbled and laughed about having lived through this back and forth two-step in organizations.  He then told us why this was such a common experience: that the problems our bosses had been trying to solve through re-organizations weren’t merely problems.  They were paradoxes, and a paradox can’t be solved once and for all. It has to be managed in a way that, over time, keeps two opposing forces in dynamic balance.  Work-life balance is a good example.  It doesn’t solve once and for all, but rather is something we return to again and again with sensitivity to when we’ve gone too far in one direction and need to come back the other way. It’s this balancing the tension of the opposing forces that makes a higher level goal possible, such as having a fulfilling career and personal life in the case of work-life balance, rather than having to chose one or the other.  Here are some other common paradoxes:

  • Flexibility and control
  • Short-term and long-term
  • Global and local
  • Individual rewards and group rewards 

All paradoxes have this in common: neither side, by itself, is entirely right, and a more complete “rightness” is possible through skillful balance.  Balance is not a static absence of decisions or action, but rather a dynamic shifting of emphasis in decisions and actions from one side to the other – and knowing when to shift.

Once I was introduced to Paradox Management, I have never looked at the world the same way.  I now see paradoxes everywhere, and have developed several new methods for diagnosing, mapping out, and managing paradoxes well.  I find this one of the most important areas to include in team sessions (team projects almost always involve important paradoxes) and in leadership programs.  For this is the understanding that helps leaders move beyond the “rightness” of their own opinions to optimizing the competing perspectives they must increasingly lead across. 

How can you start noticing and working with paradoxes?  If I were to boil down most of the paradoxes I’ve seen and worked with, they fall into these three basic categories:  learning, organizing, and belonging.

Learning – Paradoxes around learning show up when we’re challenged to build on what we know versus learn something new, for example, when we have to deliver the present and find the new future.  Learning requires using, critiquing, and often destroying past understandings and practices to construct new and more complicated frames of reference. That doesn’t mean there was anything wrong with the past learning when it was acquired, it just may be out of date, but some people hold onto outdated knowledge because they don’t want to feel they were wrong in the past.

Organizing – Paradoxes around organizing relate to how much or how little of it we’ll tolerate, for example, flexibility versus control. Organizing denotes an ongoing process of balancing opposing forces that encourage commitment, trust, and creativity (“flexibility”) while maintaining efficiency, discipline, and order (“control”).
In my over thirty years of experience consulting with organizations, I almost always find that they value control over flexibility and then wonder why they struggle with innovation.

Belonging – Paradoxes around belonging, especially important in teams, relate to the emphasis on the individual versus the group.  To what extent to we honor individual diversity versus group cohesion?  How do we get the best from individual creativity and team efforts?  As individuals, we have conflicting drives to be independent on the one hand, and belong to supportive groups (family, friends, teams) on the other. Groups, however, have norms that members are supposed to conform to, which may impede out individual freedom.  Hence the paradox.

So even though there are countless numbers of paradoxes, if you can learn how to manage these three basic categories, you’ll find it much easier to handle their many variations.  A way to get started is outlined in the Paradox Mapping (make link) guide. You might try it out with a paradox facing you now.  Or better yet, pick a paradox from each of these 3 areas and map each of them.  Once you get a feel for the dynamism of paradox, even de-re-organizations will start to make a new kind of sense.




Topics: managing paradox, paradox, conflict, managing change, problem solving, polarity, dilema, resolving conflict, management, organization structure, leadership, work-life balance

Welcome to the FEBI Learning Lounge

The official FEBI blog

The FEBI Learning Lounge is the official blog of FEBI Assessment.  In this blog we discuss all things related to the energy patterns of FEBI, digging more into each of the patterns of personality and discussing various applications that can benefit from a pattern perspective.

Also visit the Zen Leader Blog



Subscribe to Email Updates

Recent Posts