Imagine you lead a team and want people to understand each other’s preferred working styles. The following pages outline an exercise that enables everybody to appreciate how each person works best. Facilitated properly, it can lead to great improvements in teamwork.
The exercise is most effective, however, when each person in the team is delivering at least a 7/10.
It is not about working in a group setting with individuals who deliver less than 7/10. That kind of discussion can be held elsewhere in a one-to-one meeting.
So let’s explore how the exercise can help people to continue to build a super team.
1) You can invite each person to clarify their preferred working style.
Everybody has a preferred way of working. They excel at some jobs and not at others. They perform best at certain times of the day and not at others. They work well with some clients and not with others.
So start by asking each individual to complete the following exercise on how they work best. Explain that the team will then meet together to explore how to build-on people’s strengths. The sharing will be done in a positive atmosphere. It will not be about getting people to ‘change’.
Several points are worth bearing in mind when introducing the exercise.
* Ask people to be as honest as possible. There are no good or bad working styles – there are just consequences.
* Ask them to be as specific as possible. When in doubt, they are to describe things in behavioural terms.
* Talk them through each part of the exercise, perhaps giving examples from your own style to bring it to life.
Here is the exercise which you can invite people to complete. It starts with an introduction, then invites people to fill out the various sections.
2) You can facilitate a session in which each person communicates their preferred working style.
Gather the team together. Create an informal atmosphere in which people feel able to share their working style. You may then wish to follow these guidelines.
* Explain the ‘rules’.
Each person will have 15 minutes or more to explain their preferred working style. The aim is to understand the person. It is not to get them to ‘change’.
People can ask questions when the team member presents, but mainly for information. Later everybody will focus on how to capitalise on the collective strengths.
* Invite each person to spend 15 minutes or so sharing their preferred working style.
At first sight 15 minutes seems a long time, but it can often take longer. Providing people have done the exercise properly – and the group asks questions for information – it may take up to 30 minutes per person. You can model the kind of questions to ask by listening to the person and asking them to give examples. For instance:
“You say that you enjoy working with certain kinds of clients. What are the personality characteristics of those people? Do they have anything in common?"
"You say that sometimes you need ‘your own space’. Do you become quiet, grumpy or give clear messages? How can tell when you would like to be alone?”
Providing you have created a positive atmosphere, you will find that people open-up and are willing to be honest. You are asking questions to find out more about the person.
They are professionals who are delivering at least a 7/10. They have been ‘accepted’ as they are – warts and all – and are not on trial. You simply want to know more about how to capitalise on their strengths and style.
* Conclude each person’s presentation by asking each team member to answer the following question.
“Imagine that you are a leader. Bearing in mind the person’s strengths and style, what would you hire them to deliver?”
People may find it a bit hard to answer this question at first. But say that they needn’t try to fit the person into conventional or existing roles.
Frequently they then use their creativity to clarify how they would capitalise on the person’s assets. Continue the exercise until every person has made their presentation, then move onto the next stage.
3) You can invite people to focus on how the team can build on its collective strengths and compensate for any weaknesses.
Explain that you will reflect on each person’s presentation. If appropriate, you will also have a one-to-one session to clarify their best contribution to the team.
Before then, however, you want to conclude the session with the following exercise. Give each person a pack of Post-it Notes. They are to brainstorm suggestions on how people in the team can continue:
* To perform superb work.
* To build on their individual and collective strengths.
* To find solutions to any weaknesses.
The suggestions can be general or specific. People are to write one idea per Post-it. But they can write as many ideas as they wish. Give them 10 minutes to do the exercise. Then invite each person to go up in turn to post their ideas under each theme and explain their suggestions. Conclude the session by doing two things.
* Explain the specific steps you will take to follow-up the session.
This may include getting some quick successes to show you are serious about building on their working styles.
* Thank people for the efforts.
The knowledge they have gained about each other will help them to continue to build a super team.