How to Manage Red and Green Heads

Sometimes I feel like I’m surrounded by red heads.

There are two types of people on every team, those who see how it can be done – green thinkers – and those who see how it can’t – red thinkers. Both are dangerous. Both are necessary.

 

red thinking green thinking

Tension:

Green thinking: We’ll figure it out as we go. Uncertainty invigorates and energizes.

Red thinking: We’ll figure it out before we go. Clarity invigorates and energizes.

Red thinkers irritate green thinkers with too many questions and details.

Green thinkers frustrate red thinkers with too many new ideas.

Teams are stronger when they collide and collaborate.

Rise above, “It won’t work – yes it will,” conversations.

Getting the ball rolling:

Keep long-term goals in mind. Focus on short-term progress.

Ask red heads:

  1. What are you trying to accomplish? Why does it matter?
  2. What happens if we do nothing?
  3. What points of clarity are important?
  4. How might we move forward without harming something?
  5. On a scale of 1-10 how important is this initiative? Why didn’t you choose a lower number?

Ask green heads:

  1. What are the key success factors and how might we address them?
  2. What happens if we move forward?
  3. What are you trying to accomplish? Why does it matter?
  4. How will you communicate this to our organization?
  5. On a scale of 1-10 how important is this initiative? Why didn’t you choose a higher number?

Small or big:

Small wins often have disproportionately large benefits. Small losses often have disproportionately small consequences. Patterns are the main issue. Is there a pattern of small wins or small losses?

Take more risks when things are going well.

In cases of low negative impact lean toward green thinkers.

Lean toward red thinkers in high impact, high visibility initiatives.

How might leaders maximize collisions of perspective?

**Read, “Focus,” for more on this topic.