Skills, Personalities, and building a team
We are all trying our hardest to become proficient in patrolling, meal prep, shooting, hiking, survival, and all these other skills. As a leader its important to balance the flow of training but also of tasking, because when time is of the essence, if you can be one thing you should be efficient.
Image courtesy of Wandering Hoosier
Skills in general are always something we want to expand and acquire more of. Each person has their own skills, and their personalities can dictate how deep within though skills are. These individuals can be categorized into specialist, generalist, specialized generalist, or integrators.
Breadth and Depth
First let us talk about Breadth. Breadth of skills should be considered skills that are adjacent to principled skills or skills that require an understanding of separate fundamentals or principles. Pistol and rifle shooting are different skills generally, but require similar fundamentals, yet have different principles, these are adjacent skills. Shooting and radio communications are different skills with different fundamentals and principles, making them non adjacent, but they can facilitate each other.
Now depth of skills should be considered in some ways on levels that can be beginner, novice, or expert, but depending on the application, quantifiable documentation can separate those levels based on how the skills are used. For medical professionals, EMT B, EMT A, and Paramedics are separate levels based on certification and education. Keep in mind the likely fallacies that can come up because of this. A general practitioner Doctor may have more education and a higher understanding of the fundamentals of anatomy and medicine, but are not as skilled in emergency medicine as a paramedic, making it important to distinguish skills based on principle, such as emergency medicine versus general practice.
Specialists: The Deep I
For example, nerds that went to college for computer science know a lot about computers, but if they are straight A students with a dedicated work ethic and no other job experience, their skills are going to be very deep in one thing in particular, their major, but not much else.
They will likely have two skills, computer science, and studying, a skill that is hard to develop but can open the doors to faster growth in other skills.
These individuals that are deeply skilled in one area are specialist, and can complete many very technical tasks. But integrating specialist into a team can be difficult, since they can only perform very specific tasks.
Generalists: The Flat Liner
The jack of all trades, they can probably connect a printer, sew up your busted out crotch, and grow some tomatoes, but they may be lacking in some depth for skills that need a deep knowledge for finding a job in that skill.
Sure, anyone can learn to change oil in a car, but that does not make you a mechanic. What it does make you is independent and self-sufficient. These skills may be niche artistic passions, or important things that people will pay others way too much to do, taking off a load of the logistics or manpower for the community.
Still, there are somethings that need to be deeply skilled in to be a leader in the field.
Specialized Generalist: The T shape personality
These individuals have chosen one thing they are good at and have devoted many hours to master that skill. What is important though is not only being a master basket weaver who can grow tomatoes and change oil, but one who can teach others how to weave and use their woven baskets to hold their tomatoes.
Now before that analogy is exhausted, we need to ask, “what is a specialized generalist?” They are an individual who has skills in one area that one may consider expert level, but they also have essential skills in adjacent fields that support their specialty.
Take for example Elon Musk. Contrary to popular belief, is not a rocket scientist, but he is a salesman, and a good one too. His brands range from PayPal, to Tesla making EV cars in a revolutionary way, to the government contracted SpaceX.
Musk knows finance, engineering, and space flight at a basic level, but he also knows management, investing, and how to build a company very deeply. These adjacent skills are necessary in building up your specialty like guy lines to a tent.
The Integrator: The X
Now these individuals do not have specifically one deep skill, but instead, they are able to identify the utility of one skilled individual, and the goals of the other and integrate those skills to meet that goal. This requires interpersonal skills: understanding timelines, how their team communicates, what kind of work ethic is expected and what kind of work can be delivered from skilled individuals.
Managing expectations is key, but also giving individuals responsibility, drive, and ownership can pull a person from doing it quid pro quo, to doing it for duty and obligation to the team’s goals. This isn’t a matter of military brain washing, it’s giving individuals the opportunity to find fulfilling work, and not taking the credit at the end of the day.
Being a selfless leader is essential as an integrator, because individuals who are deeply skilled typically work alone, being able to establish a base level of communication and feedback will keep the team’s goals in the spotlight or bring them back in the spotlight if they get lost.
So how do these individuals fall into a team dynamic?
Typically, if a team needs to be formed for a goal, its an integrator, the X, who is going to pull those team members together. The X knows the team’s goals and can identify the skilled individuals necessary to fill the roles.
A team of generalists, flat liners, will not be able to do anything highly technical, but can accomplish a lot with the help of a skilled integrator. Much of this may be manual labor, or cursory checkups on vehicles, or just standing as armed guards, but nothing highly technical.
A team of specialist, the I’s, will likely butt heads without a patient and highly skilled X, managing people who don’t know other’s experiences can be a nightmare. This is like IT working with Security, or Construction workers working with musicians. Without a person who knows each other’s skills, experiences, work flow, and required materials, nothing will get done efficiently.
A Team of Specialized Generalist, the T’s, can do much without a skilled X, because if their skills overlap, they can teach each other the more technical parts that are necessary, or supervise and make a streamlined process as everyone comes together for a highly technical task. It may take one HAM to teach a few shooters how to program radios, but after they learn, the responsibility falls off the HAM and falls on the individual. Or if a gardener teaches a team how to plant tomatoes, the gardener can focus on more technical tasks while the rest of the team gets to work.
What to look for:
When developing a team, depending on the goals, risks, and adjacent skills necessary, you may elect to choose generalist over specialist, or vice versa. In a perfect world, everyone would be a T shaped individual, but sadly that’s not the case.
Scenario: A flooded area needs to be reached by foot, by radio, or by visual contact.
You have 8 individuals: A drone operator (T), a thru-hiker (-), an infantry non-commissioned officer(T), a HAM radio operator (I), a chef (I), a farm hand (-), a mechanic (T), and a chemical engineer (I). As an X yourself, you want to split up a team to go out to the flood zone, and a team to stay behind and prepare for contingencies.
I will choose the Drone operator, the thru hiker, the Infantry NCO, and the farm hand to go out on foot and get close to launch a drone and find survivors. This is the GO team
The mechanic, the chef, the HAM radio operator, and the engineer will stay behind. This is the STAY team.
The GO team needs land navigation skills, basic radio skills, physical endurance, and the ability to make visual over a wide area. The NCO can do the land nav and operate a radio to talk to the STAY team, or can tasks out the radio communication to the thru-hiker or farm hand.
The stay team needs to prepare to fulfill the logistics needs of the GO team, preparing food, making sure radios stay charged and programmed, making sure the generator stays on, etc. Even if the chemical engineer, being the nerd he is, doesn’t have a specific job to fulfill, the ability to learn how to help the HAM maintain radios, or help the chef prepare meals, or help the mechanic to carry tools and hold the flashlight, this can help ease the manpower burden on each individual. Since their tasks don’t require as much integration as the GO team, the stay team suits the dedicated skill sets of the I’s and T’s.
The GO team, requiring integrated skills and physical endurance needs generalist and T’s, but importantly an X to integrate the skills together. If all of the GO team were T’s in adjacent fields, then an X wouldn’t be necessary. This is the case for most special operations teams. Yes, each individual can communicate on the radio, but JTACs do the main duties especially in delicate situations. Yes, each individual can run through the steps of M.A.R.C.H. but the 18B will handle the IV’s most likely and be the last one to care for the patient before being handed off the higher levels of care. And yes, each individual can report intel and communicate over the radio efficiently, but the Scout Sniper will be the one handling the majority of scouting and stalking.
Because everyone has a base level experience in other skills, those who are not specialist in that specific skill can still have a respect and appreciation for the job they fulfill, but also have a realistic expectation for how the other members of the team work.
Ask yourself, how long does it take to program a radio? How hard is it take to shoot an azimuth? How many pounds of rice are needed to feed a squad for a week? The answers to the questions are simple, and can be a key in being a good integrator in the future.
In simplest terms, having a niche skill doesn’t make you valuable, but having the skills adjacent to it that are supporting of that skill can make you a valuable individual for yourself, that’s that hustle bullshit you’ve seen on Instagram. Teaching, studying, coaching, and management can help you transform yourself from an I to a T.
When there’s a lot of white space (down time between jobs), integration of I’s can be helpful in maintaining very technical jobs and I’s can work together with a skilled X who understands work flow, time management, and expectations.
In a perfect world, a team of T’s can anticipate the needs of the other, can focus the team toward a goal, and hand off the lead from one individual to the other in certain tasks. This can save time, save headache and heartache, and keep your team mates from strangling each other at night because you wanted to sleep in the swamp like a fucking idiot (to hide from opfor).
You as an induvial should identify your skillset, learn how to teach others that skill, and learn other skills from your team mates. Brining you up to a T in your own field, and gaining deeper knowledge in other skills. You should also strive to be an X, learning how much is required for individuals to be able to support a common goal, and developing interpersonal skills for keeping team mates motivate and understanding of the work needed across the team.