Generalists or Specialists – How to Recognize and Value the Differences - Business Results
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Generalists or Specialists – How to Recognize and Value the Differences

Generalists or Specialists – How to Recognize and Value the Differences

Ever had a headache dealing with an overly-detailed employee who seems to get stuck in the weeds? Or on the other hand, one who can’t seem to get any details into their work at all? While these employees may be opposites (and we all have moments where we act like both!), understanding the differences between the archetypes of big-picture, risk-tolerant generalists and process-focused, risk-averse specialists is the secret to unleashing the potential of your workforce.

Employee success is all about playing to each person’s innate strengths when tailoring the expectations and goals for each role. Beyond creating the role, that same people data is incredibly helpful across the entire employee experience, such as when you are creating a high-performing team, succession planning, implementing coaching and communication strategies, and creating development opportunities.

Let’s look at how we might approach the two employees described above.

Specialists prefer clear instructions and rules. When they ascend to leadership roles, it’s important to support them through it. Help them review their plan’s milestones and measures of success, particularly the difference between expectations around what their old job was, and what the metrics for success are in the managerial role. Help them find ways to create clarity for themselves, and when possible, designate someone in leadership to help think through ways to mitigate risk associated with difficult decisions.

When working with generalists, who are more flexible and like to find their own way, you’ll need to take a different approach. They will need help (even if they don’t think so) to create milestones and set realistic deadlines, and to define metrics of success for their team. Explain why maintaining a consistent process is important but give them the freedom to explore new ways of achieving the same goal. Training may also include communication strategies, so that more detail-oriented members on their team are not left behind.

One final tip. Any organization can benefit from having all sorts of people, not just the two mentioned above, to share their individual knowledge and experiences. It helps when everyone understands and appreciates each other’s approach. A good mix of great talent can make your team unstoppable.

Business Results has the tools and training to help you objectively understand every person in your organization and to understand how to help your people, from pre-hire to retire.