Understanding What Makes Your Team Tick

Variety, the so-called “spice of life,” can be challenging at work when team members have dramatically different work styles (don’t laugh; it’s a thing!). Building a successful business starts with building productive teams; but, as the saying goes, “the devil is in the details.”

This fascinating topic is the subject of an article in this month’s edition of Harvard Business Review (HBR) by two Deloitte executives: Suzanne Johnson Vickberg and Kim Christfort.  They describe their research and practical experience working with companies by identifying and understanding the four basic personality types:

Pioneers – “value possibilities, and they spark energy and imagination on their teams. They believe risks are worth taking and that it’s fine to go with your gut. Their focus is big picture. They’re drawn to bold new ideas and creative approaches.”

Guardians –  “value stability, and they bring order and rigor. They’re pragmatic, and they hesitate to embrace risk. Data and facts are baseline requirements for them, and details matter. Guardians think it makes sense to learn from the past.”

Drivers – “value challenge and generate momentum. Getting results and winning count most. Drivers tend to view issues as black-and-white and tackle problems head on, armed with logic and data.”

Integrators – “value connection and draw teams together. Relationships and responsibility to the group are paramount. Integrators tend to believe most things are relative. They’re diplomatic and focused on gaining consensus.”

Sound like anyone you know at your company? Most likely, you’ve got a mix of all of these personality types (if not, you’ve got a big problem!) and that’s a good thing – assuming you know how to manage the differences in how people approach their work.

If you’re a CEO, or someone in a senior leadership position, it’s highly likely you’re a driver or pioneer. Don’t let that blind you to the value integrators and guardians bring to the workplace. “All work styles types have something important to offer. But they can cause conflict among team members,” note the authors.

Their advice to managing teams with a variety of work styles include:

  • Pulling opposites closer to foster productive friction
  • Seek input from people with nondominant styles
  • Pay attention to sensitive introverts (they just might surprise you!)

The limits of a single blog post won’t allow me to share all the great examples and detailed information about how to put this advice into action, but you can read it for yourself in the March-April edition of HBR (also available online to subscribers).

It’s worth looking up the article for these details and a handy one-page “Profiles at a Glance” guide. It’s similar to the “cheat sheets” we use at Intertech to understand and respect the work and communication styles of our leadership team. Making an effort to understand how we’re wired has made a big difference in our ability to function as a productive management group. Viva la difference!

Listen Up – Your Customers are Talking!

Anyone with responsibility for making a company successful—from the CEO to the front desk receptionist—already knows who really decides an organization’s fate: the customers. That’s why most of us pay attention and actively solicit customer input on our current work and future product developments.

As a smaller company, Intertech regularly engages with our customers in informal ways. Why? We all know it’s more economical and productive to extend existing customer relationships than to build new ones from scratch (we also genuinely like our customers!).

But what about medium-to-large companies where regular informal customer contact is difficult to encourage? It’s not uncommon in larger companies for customer relationships to be completely controlled by a single sales rep. That’s not a healthy situation for your company, especially if your sales rep decides to work elsewhere – taking all of those precious customer relationships with him or her.

A couple of smart and connection-minded local entrepreneurs, Eric Lopez and Loring Kaveney, decided to do something about this. They developed a secure community platform called WorkOutLoud to facilitate ongoing conversations between companies and their customers. This cool new platform also provides the tools to drive collaborative activities through online registration, surveys, email notifications, blogs, files storage, forums, analytics and the like. It’s especially helpful for developing case studies, and facilitating product enhancement requests that drives customer engagements before, during and after events such as webinars, conferences, blog posts and announcements.

Loring Kaveney, who also serves as the Minneapolis Director of StartUp Grind (a national networking group for tech entrepreneurs), explained it to me this way:

“There is a natural increase in collaboration when a community platform is provided to share information from thought leaders in their industry, especially when it supports rich content to solve challenges. Customer communities will lower churn while focusing on the satisfaction of the customer’s thoughts around services and products provided by your company.”

In other words, every company needs a customer community to clearly understand what drives their customers and to encourage collaboration. Your bottom line depends on it. I’m impressed with WorkOutLoud and suggest you check it out at www.workoutloud.com.

6 simple ways to make every project successful

My latest article for The Business Journals is “6 simple ways to make every project successful“.  Below is the start:

Running a software development company for more than two decades has given me a lot of insight into making projects work.

Clients should expect fast, accurate and nearly immediate benefits from development projects that used to take months or even years to yield results. The strategies we’ve adapted to meet client expectations are useful no matter what type of business you’re in today.

Read the full copy on The Business Journals website.