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Me-We-Us-All (3 of 8): The Prover

This is the third of an 8-part series exploring how to be a People Catalysts.  In the series we focus on “ME”, or on your individual core nature; “WE” being two people with different strengths interacting; “US” which is a team working together; and “ALL” which is how to work as an entire organization.

This episode focuses on being a Prover: what your strengths are, what is your peak work, what motivates you, and what work you need to stay away from.

Listen to the podcast here:


Karla Nelson:  Welcome to the People Catalysts Podcast, Allen Fahden.

Allen Fahden:  Hello, Karla.

Karla Nelson:  Hello, hello, my friend. How are you today?

Allen Fahden:  Oh, I’m feeling wonderful. It’s beautiful day to talk about people.

Karla Nelson:  Yes. Specifically, we’re going to be talking about provers today. This is the third episode of an eight-part series where we are focusing on, first, me, and that’s mover, shaker, prover, maker. We, if you combined two of those strengths or natural tendencies. Team, when you’re working with a group and … which is us, and then all, which is an organization. We want to meet our listeners at the place that they need and where they’re at in the process, so we have a lot of previous podcasts that we’ve recorded. Specifically, I’m going to say on the us, right, area, Allen, which is the team, the team dynamics.

Allen Fahden:  Yes.

Karla Nelson:  We’re breaking this down in an eight-part series. Again, me, we, us, and all. For today, we’re going to be talking about the prover, and if you’ve listened to the first and the second episode of this eight-part series, we went through the mover and the shaker, and today, we’re going to review the prover, and so I will be interviewing Allen and asking him the questions as if he is a prover. Of course, we all know he is a shaker. What was funny, Allen, is on the mover side, I couldn’t help myself but interject, and on the shaker side, you were on fire, so we’ll see how the prover …

Allen Fahden:  Well, we’ll see what kind of energy we have today because this is the main thing.

Karla Nelson:  Exactly. Right?

Allen Fahden:  We’re trying to understand somebody else, but I think there are some things involved that will surprise people about provers, and we’ll make provers feel very happy to be provers.

Karla Nelson:  Yes. Well, one of the things about provers is I think they’ve got one of the most challenging … Their core nature is to poke holes in things, which is amazing, and as a mover, that’s my output. I love it. However, a lot of times, they’re really seen as the naysayers or the Eeyores of the world and not really recognized for what they’re absolutely amazing at.

Allen Fahden:  Yeah.

Karla Nelson:  They are a necessary part. Again, we need you all. We just don’t need you at the same time, and I think when … I will never forget the training that, I don’t know, we did maybe a year ago. Allen, you were off on a different training, and one of the “ahas” at the end of the training was provers aren’t so bad after all. It was hilarious, but seriously, like we had to go through the whole training and to realize that, “Wow, that person …” People think they’re challenging, but truly, they are a necessary part of the process. It’s just that you have to have everyone in the process at the right time so that their core nature is not squashed out, but that we magnify what they’re amazing at, right, so that they give more of that.

Allen Fahden:  Absolutely.

Karla Nelson:  With that said, then we are going to go ahead and start our interview of Allen who is going to be playing the prover today.

Allen Fahden:  I should get an Oscar for this.

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. We’ll go ahead and see what we could do next year. Yeah.

Allen Fahden:  Okay. It is great.

Karla Nelson:  Okay, so Allen, as a prover, what parts of the work will bring out your magnificence?

Allen Fahden:  A prover think of that little diamond-shaped yellow sign that you see along the road. Sometimes, it has a curved arrow and it warns you that the road is curving ahead. Sometimes, it warns you of cross traffic. It could be any number of things, but imagine if those went away. What kind of chaos we would have, and what kind of surprises, and I mean unpleasant surprises drivers would have?

Well, it’s the same thing in work, in business is that if you don’t have the warnings of what can go wrong, then you’d get surprised. You wind up throwing things away. You wind up losing your time schedule. Everything. Everything does down, and so many companies … The statistics are terrible. About 90% of startups are not going to make it. Oftentimes, it’s that they don’t see it coming, and so one way to see it coming, and this is the magnificence.

There is a time, a phase in every project where it’s time to find out what can go wrong. The problem is that people have been doing it willy-nilly, and if you have a prover in the room who pokes a whole in an idea and the shaker whose idea it was is still there, you’ve got a fight on your hands. It’s like, “Oh, you don’t like my idea? Well then, you don’t like me,” and there’s trouble brewing, but there is a time and what you do is you move the shaker out of the room, and that’s when you critique the idea.

Then, you pick it apart. You get the warning. They are magnificent, so this is a … The provers are magnificent in this, so this is a phase of the project where you’ve decided on an idea. You’ve got a rough plan. Now, you need to know what can go wrong, and you need to know it as early as possible so you don’t throw anything away. It’s the prover who can tell you all the flaws in an idea.

Now, some of them are not going to be perfect. Perfect flaws. They’re not going to be well-thought-through and you can throw away, and it’s the same thing. A flaw is just an idea, but you a put a prover in that phase coming up with no resistance to their critique, they love it. They’re great at it, and you collect a whole bunch of warning signs, and you know exactly what you’ve got to deal with moving ahead. You take care of a high percentage of it. Who knows? We haven’t done the math, but it’s a high, high percentage, and we’ve demonstrated that anecdotally. So there. There you go. It’s the prover that will show you what can go wrong, and the point is doing it at the right time, and honoring it, and not fighting with them.

Karla Nelson:  Yes. I love it, and that’s so magnificent with the prover that what they typically do, they’re seen as being naysayers, or the Eeyore, or the pessimist, but in fact, they’re giving you all of the warning signs, right?

Allen Fahden:  Yeah.

Karla Nelson:  A prover gives you all the warning signs, and they can really help see the problems before you start taking action.

Allen Fahden:  It’s a gift. Why vilify somebody for giving you a gift? I remember one prover recently came up after we had run the WHO-DO method, and he comes up, and he says, “I just love this.” I said, “Oh well, great. I’m glad you did. Tell me why.” He said, “Because for the first time in my life, I have been able to just say everything that’s wrong. Just totally vent on an idea and nobody pushes back. People write it down, and I feel heard, listened to, and not resisted for maybe the first time in my life.”

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. After working in this position for what? 20, 30 years?

Allen Fahden:  Yeah.

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. Incredible. Love it. Love it. Well, and I love everyone. As a mover, gosh, my … I have to have all my shakers and provers, which are … give me a lot of energy, but if we didn’t have the maker, we wouldn’t get anything done.

Allen Fahden:  Right.

Karla Nelson:  Okay, so Allen, as a prover, what should you say yes to?

Allen Fahden:  This is really a continuation of what we’re just talking about. A prover is a later adopter, more of a natural finisher. This is a person who is the early majority, late majority on the fusion of innovation scale, and so what do they do? They look at what could be, the possibility, and analyze it, and say, “Okay. This could go wrong. That could go wrong.” They’re great at pointing out the flaws. We talked about that, but there are other things that they do really well. One is figuring out how to do something, and we work with one of those to …

Karla Nelson:  We never have a leadership team that isn’t balanced. We have to have all three, right? You have to have a mover, shaker, and a prover.

Allen Fahden:  Yeah, especially when you’re starting something out. Well, so it’s like … What’s the old Star Trek thing? Make it so, and he figures out how to make it so, and so that’s a great talent because oftentimes, it’s the mover and the shaker who are playing at such a high altitude as early adopters that they really can’t figure out the detail. They get in close, and they get stymied, so here’s a person who could take something and make a plan of how to finish it.

Besides that, we talked about predicting what can go wrong. Critiquing is great, and again, it’s much of the same thing, but think about this. When you are in a position where you are buying things like from suppliers or whatever, or you’ve got somebody who can discriminate and help choose like curating. A lot of people who are buying things on the outside need to have somebody who can do the due diligence. Well, the prover is great at that. They can take five or six …

Karla Nelson:  Great at due diligence. Yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Allen Fahden:  Oh, yeah. Five or six suppliers, and take it through a whole process, and tell you what the risks are, and at their best, give you a great report so that you can make a really well-informed decision. Anything where you’ve got finalists, think about this. Companies sell things, but companies also buy things, and it’s provers and makers that often find themselves in the role of buying things.

Now, if you have a law firm, if you have a business law firm, there’s a lot of things that business lawyers do, but certainly, one of them is predicting what can go wrong, and then drawing up and air-tight agreement to fix that. Again, a prover is great at that, and you’ll find that most business lawyers are provers.

Karla Nelson:  Mm-hmm (affirmative). You got it, and so Allen then, as a prover, what should you say no to?

Allen Fahden:  One, innovation.

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. Be a part of it, but just don’t be on the front side of it because it will drive you crazy.

Allen Fahden:  Exactly, so how do you start an innovation project? You say something like, “Okay. What are we going to do over the next three years to disrupt our industry?” And so you got a bunch of people in a meeting, and the provers and the makers are sitting there and saying, “Why should we disrupt our industry? We’ve just stabilized things in our business, and I really don’t want to be here.” Innovation in it is very abstract, ambiguous front stages are the great things to say no to. Another one is problem-solving, but I want to put a … stay away from problem-solving, but it depends on what kind of problem.

Karla Nelson:  Well, yeah, and I think that’s specific to ambiguous problem. That’s …

Allen Fahden:  Yeah.

Karla Nelson:  If it’s a specific problem, the provers are great at … if you give them something specific that they can look up all the details. If it’s too abstract, it’s just not … There’s not enough meat there for them to … Provers can’t … Because they’re so focused on the details, I can’t … We can’t give a prover 10 different problems to solve. They melt down, but if you say, “Hey, here’s this one thing that we want to accomplish,” then they can hone in on the details. Otherwise, it’s a melt-down situation.

Allen Fahden:  Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

Karla Nelson:  It’s overwhelm, right?

Allen Fahden:  Absolutely, and there’s another attitude thing too, and that is when you get to that kind of problem where they don’t see a solution because they think more about what is than what can be, so when they don’t see a solution, guess what? They say, “Why should we solve this anyway?” It’s either, “It can’t be done,” or, “Let’s not solve this problem. It’s not so bad after all.” It’s like that. The human mind starts to rationalize, so what you can do is if you put a prover in that situation, they will take away the enthusiasm for the project. Again, another reason not for them to be at that front-end of innovation because it will let the air out of the project.

Karla Nelson:  Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, and I … That’s interesting when you talk about innovation, Allen, and the fact that on the front-end, yes, but as soon as you decide the path that you’re going down, that’s when you engage the prover, right? After the mover decides, “Hey, we’re going to choose … We’re going to do number seven and number nine, but nine drives seven, so we need to put that into perspective.” As soon as you have that laid out, that’s the point that you bring the prover to the table.

Allen Fahden:  Yes. Absolutely, and then they love it because it’s like, “Okay. Here’s the idea. Blow every hole you can. No holds barred. Go for it.”

Karla Nelson:  That’s their brilliance. Yeah, yeah.

Allen Fahden:  “Oh yeah, I love that.” Somebody is going to flip back on you.

Karla Nelson:  But it’s going to be a specific idea.

Allen Fahden:  Yeah, nobody is going to call you names, so go for it.

Karla Nelson:  Yup.

Allen Fahden:  Yeah, and it’s got to be a specific idea as you say.

Karla Nelson:  The thing, Allen, is when we stick everyone in one meeting, right, the prover really gets to melt-down mode because all these ideas that are being thrown out, if they understand the process, they get their chance to speak. But if you come up with a ton of ideas all at one time, they just don’t have the ability to respond in a very logical thought-through method, right?

Allen Fahden:  Right.

Karla Nelson:  It really is the provers and the shakers that they hate meetings. We as shakers and movers … Also, for different reasons, right? But I think the prover is the one that really struggles. The maker just sits quiet and says, “I can’t wait to get back to my checklist,” but the prover truly like looks at all the ideas coming out, and they’re in their mind. They’re like, “Da, da, da, da,” trying to … Somebody how is an idea-generator in a different manner. It’s the other side. It’s all the details, so it’s not necessarily inspiring or uplifting. They actually try to like point out all the flaws with it. Right? I see provers in those meetings have the hardest time because their brains are just tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, right? It’s not about what … because typically, you’re talking about what it can be, not what it is, right?

Allen Fahden:  Yeah, exactly.

Karla Nelson:  They’re comfortable with what it is.

Allen Fahden:  They come out being the buzzkill.

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. It’s so not fair. I love my provers, but it’s very true. They come out being the naysayers, the buzzkillers, right, even though they’re a very important part of the process.

Allen Fahden:  Yeah.

Karla Nelson:  Allen, as a prover, who is your natural inbox?

Allen Fahden:  Natural inbox? The mover, and here’s why. Because dealing with a mover … Part of the theoretical base of this is that we’re all to some degree born shakers and makers, and that movers and provers are a fact of society. We become those as we get more cognitive, and so one of the things is movers and provers, while not having this great relationship, they understand each other. They have a professional accommodation so to speak, and so they have a relationship that allows them to communicate. Not to go, “Oh man, you’re the greatest,” but just to say, “Oh yeah, I understand you.”

Unlike the shaker and the prover who fight, and so there are no other motives when the mover asks the prover to critique an idea because part of the set-up, and they trust this coming from the mover, is there’s not going to be any, “Oh, you’re a naysayer,” pushback and, “Oh, you’re being too awful about this,” and so forth. It’s a great inbox because the shaker is gone, so you just got the mover and the prover, and the mover invites the prover to blow every hole they can and the idea, and that’s a very, very nice, nice set-up and a very decent relationship.

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, and not only invites, really acknowledges and appreciates that somebody can do that because at the end of the day, the mover wants to get it done. They want to hit the finish line, and the prover really helps them do that because they’re going to identify all of the speed bumps along the way before you start moving down the road.

Allen Fahden:  Right. That helps them. Yes.

Karla Nelson:  The other thing it does is it gets buy-in, so as soon … So, a prover will say, “No, no, no, no, no,” until you get to a point where they’re like, “Yeah. Okay. I can live with that.”

Allen Fahden:  Yeah.

Karla Nelson:  Now, all of a sudden, the mover is so excited because now you’ve got buy-in from the whole team, which is a challenging thing if you’re going to come and dictate, but when you invite everyone to be a part of the process, especially the prover, because later adopters like provers, as soon as they’re sold, they’re sold for life, so …

Allen Fahden:  Yeah, good one.

Karla Nelson:  Yeah.

Allen Fahden:  What is it you always say, “People buy what they build?”

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. People, they … What do I say? They support what they build. No. I can’t even remember. It’s a great quote though that I use …

Allen Fahden:  Something like that.

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, but if the entire team supports something, then they’ll continually be engaged because they put their thumbprint on it, and I think that’s what a lot of businesses and Corporate America, especially government, forget that people support what they build, right? If they were a part of the building of it, they feel like they’ve got their little thumbprint on it.

Allen Fahden:  Yeah.

Karla Nelson:  It’s really important, and a lot of times, going in, you know what the answer is. I can’t tell you how many times I know what the answer is. Slow down. Use the process. Get the buy-in from the team because people support what they build, so you have to slow down even if you know the answer, even if you know where you should go, taking four hours … because that’s typical, right, Allen, when we’re attacking any type of problem? Two hours for training, two hours for them to solve their problem. It will pay it over, and over, and over again back to the team because the difference is the CEO coming in and saying, “This is what we’re going to do,” verus two hours to train, two hours to solve their own problem, and your team will support what they build.

Allen Fahden:  And they have a much better answer anyway, and that’s been proven again and again.

Karla Nelson:  You know it isn’t that …

Allen Fahden:  That’s how team outperforms the individual.

Karla Nelson:  You got it. You got it. They always come up with something better, right?

Allen Fahden:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Karla Nelson:  Okay, so Allen, as a prover, who is your natural outbox?

Allen Fahden:  Okay, so this is a little bit tricky, but not very. Again, the prover on the front-end of innovation needs to deal with the mover. However, the actual natural outbox is the shaker. We just don’t want them to contact each other directly because of all the emotional energy people put on having ideas and critiquing ideas, but let me say this a different way. The prover’s inbox is the plan, which is provided by the mover, so critique the plan, come up with everything that can go wrong. That’s the inbox.

Now, the outbox. Do your magic, prover. The outbox is the reality of the situation. Okay? No plan ever survives the real world in tact, and so it’s the prover who then generates the reality, and that goes to the shaker, but it goes to the shaker through the mover just because of that.

Karla Nelson:  I love that.

Allen Fahden:  Yeah.

Karla Nelson:  To the shaker through the mover. Yeah, you have to.

Allen Fahden:  Yes.

Karla Nelson:  As a mover, you have to … Don’t commingle those two animals as much as possible.

Allen Fahden:  Yeah, and there’s another outbox later in the process, and that is … Once you get an agreed-upon idea, you’ve plan the whole thing out. Now, it’s time to implement, which oftentimes is integrating it into the systems you already have. Who’s going to do that? That’s the maker. Guess who’s got the best relationship with the maker? It’s the prover, so what happens is that the mover and the prover work out that it’s time to integrate it into the system, but it’s actually the prover who will brief the maker and provide the kind of details. Now, that’s a meeting. The mover doesn’t really want to be at the whole meeting because it’s going to bore you to death.

Karla Nelson:  The whole meeting? None of the meeting.

Allen Fahden:  Yeah, none of the meeting. It will bore you to death because it’s like a big planogram with every detail and, “Oh, we’ve got to hire temps then for that. Where are we going to get that budget? Oh, that’s over here. Oh, we’ve got to write new code for that. Okay.” Well, it’s like a mover does not want to be at that meeting as you said.

Karla Nelson:  No, but when the meeting has concluded and there’s something to review, then that’s going to let the mover review the entire plan to say, “Hey, what do you think about this, this, that, or what …” right? Because they don’t mind the five minutes of briefing. They want that piece, but hugging itself.

Allen Fahden:  Yes. It’s called the executive summary.

Karla Nelson:  Exactly, and as quickly as possible please.

Allen Fahden:  Yes. Remove the consonants. Do only vowels. It goes very fast that way. Oh, yeah.

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, but provers and makers are definitely … Those two, their relationship is much better. A mover will skip steps that the maker starts to freak out on.

Allen Fahden:  Correct.

Karla Nelson:  I know that by experience.

Allen Fahden:  Since you have in many …

Karla Nelson:  But the prover is really great on the outbox if they have a team that they can identify all the details and even facilitate the meeting that allows them to uncover those details that need to be stamped out after the majority of the plan has been identified.

Allen Fahden:  Right, right. The maker flies at 50 feet above the ground below the radar. They see details nobody else sees. We’ll get into that in our next podcast.

Karla Nelson:  Yeah, that’s right. Okay, so Allen, as a prover, what phase of the work do you excel at, and what leaves you energized?

Allen Fahden:  I’m going to pluck out just a little nugget that we talked about before, and if you’re a prover, imagine this. Being able to look at an idea and think it through, analyze it, pick it apart with tons of detail, and then critique it without pushback, and I’ll tell you. All right? I was in a meeting with a prover, and he said to our … One day, he says, “Allen, can you give some more detail on that?” I said, “Sure. Why?” He says, “So I can pick it apart.” He has this little evil grin on his face.

It’s analysis. They love to do that, and they’re great at it, and there’s a lot of value in it, so there is a heaven. No pushback. “Let me pick the idea apart. Let me present everything that can go wrong, and let me … Then, let me take up a bunch more, and I’ll know that you, the mover, are writing them all down, and you’re going to take them back to the shaker and get some ideas to overcome them.”

As a prover, I don’t think at that moment that anybody could solve these. These are such great objections to the idea, and then when it … that’s come back to the prover that … “We can’t do that. It’s illegal in 18 states.” That’s the objection, and the shaker looks at it and says, “Why don’t we launch in 32 states and we’ll lobby in the other 18, then we get a 50-state rollout?” Then, the prover says, “Oh, yeah. Now, I never would have thought of that. I thought this objection killed the idea.” Have it. Kill the idea with your objections. No resistance. We venerate and glorify you for that. Go, and they love it. That’s bliss.

Karla Nelson:  You got it. You got it. I love it. Okay, so Allen, as a prover, what phase of the work drains you?

Allen Fahden:  Here’s a simple one. Stay out of the early stages, and that’s the ambiguous stages where you’re trying to figure out how to disrupt your industry or you’re trying to solve an enormous problem because every wonderful thing that you contribute is not valued. In fact, it’s not even a neutral. It’s a negative, so you are basically Darth Vader or the Prince of Darkness for speaking up in any of those meetings. Stay away, unless you’re under brainstorming rules and you’re trying to come up with a solution yourself, and that can work because that … Provers come up with very interesting ideas that are in a different place, but just make sure you’re not in a meeting without brainstorming rules in it because it can be all your weak work.

The other part I would say is that on the other end of it, don’t take on maker work, and the reason of that is that it’s all in sequence, and provers and shakers too are much more random thinkers hopping around, and so it can be really boring for you to do maker work as well. All you have to do is just say, “That’s what we have makers for,” and if you can’t get a boss or somebody to okay that, then go make agreements with people. “I’ll help you. You help me. That’s what teams is all about, so I’ll do some of your weak work, and it’s my strength, and I love it. You’ll do some of my weak work because it’s your strength and you love it.” Boom, things …

Karla Nelson:  Well, you’re just moving right into the next question which is, as a prover, what can you do to not take on weak work?

Allen Fahden:  What are those? We talked about the maker work, which is details. When you get really into the details, nah, you don’t want to do that. Also, here’s a good one. Provers think that they should be good at setting priorities. You know what? They’re random, they’re conceptual, and it’s just like shakers. All the ideas pretty much look alike to them, so they’re good at critiquing ideas, but they’re not very good at saying which one we got to go with. That will basically drain them because they try to figure it out, but they’ll waste a lot of time and a lot of energy.

Then, of course, game-changing ideas. If they are asked to attribute game-changing ideas, which is basically breaking all the rules, provers don’t like to break to rules. Provers like to make the rules. They’re great at organizing and so forth, and dealing with what is, but dealing with the possibilities and what can be, it can be very upsetting, and that drains you. That’s how to tell if you’re working on new strengths. You go home at the end of the day drained, you’re working in your weaknesses. You go home at the end of the day energized, you’re working in your strength.

Karla Nelson:  You got it. You got it. Okay, so to wrap it up, Allen, there’s one last question, which we get pretty frequently. Although, it’s pretty much common sense even though people are asking it just to verify what they already think, I think, but as a prover and any different core nature, does peak work really outperform weak work?

Allen Fahden:  Yeah, and we keep referring to this study, which is done by the Gallup organization, and they have like 125,000 data points that’s pretty solid unsaleable study, and one of the things they did was they divided the work up into five levels of people working in their strengths all the way down to people not working in their strengths. In those five levels, the top group that worked most in their strengths in the test beat the goal by 15%. The bottom fifth who were working much more on their weaknesses missed the goal by 30%, so there’s a swing of about 45% in performance just simply by who’s working in strengths and who’s not, and plus, they had a manager that they liked, so the numbers are there. There’s the quantitative part. There’s the data.

Also, we have anecdotally so many different experiments that we’ve done where always if you hand off the work strength to strength, you will do it three to eight times faster, and the performance and the results will be meteorically better, and this … You can even go anecdotally into famous people that failed when they didn’t have their strength work to do, and it was succeeded wildly when they did.

Karla Nelson:  Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, and I think everyone knows that intuitively, right? What is that thing that you do that doesn’t feel like work, right?

Allen Fahden:  Yeah.

Karla Nelson:  I think we’ve been taught that things need to be challenging, so we don’t necessarily value the things that are easy for us and that we’re naturally gifted at. Why? Because they’re easy, so it’s no big deal. Come on. Right? Even though that’s often, and I would almost say 100% of the time, that’s your brilliance. That’s what you’re great at.

Allen Fahden:  That’s right.

Karla Nelson:  Right?

Allen Fahden:  Steve Martin in his stand up act used to say after just doing all this wonderful silly stuff that made people laugh, he’d say, “Can you believe I get paid for doing this?”

Karla Nelson:  Exactly. Well, that’s awesome. That wraps up our segment on … or third segment on an eight-part series, which is the prover. Allen, thank you so much for being with us here today.

Allen Fahden:  Thank you, Karla. Lots of fun.

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