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Why You Want a Mixed Team and Pitfalls of Profiling (5 min read)

Be Do Have Coaching_Team Building“Balance is key to every team. It is impossible to win a football game with 11 goalkeepers.” – Sir Alex Ferguson

Imagine a team of 11 goalkeepers. It would not get very far (literally). Sure your goal posts will be impenetrable, but your team would never score. Ideally, you want a combination of specialists (attack, defence, midfield, goalkeeper) and a few multi-position players. Similarly, in sailing, it’s no good setting off with just ace navigators. Sure you’ll know which course to sail, but who would helm, trim the sails, manage the cockpit and grind at the pedestals?

Successful sport teams require an assortment of team players, combining different skill sets, strengths and personalities. In the corporate arena, this is one area where businesses often fail to capitalise their gains. Why? Like attracts like. Generally business culture is driven top down. If the MD is a result-driven extrovert, who prefers to think in big pictures, makes quick decisions and communicates in bullet points, they are likely to get on easier with someone similar. Suddenly, the board is full of fast-paced and task-focused extroverts; making it harder for their more introverted detail-orientated or people-focused colleagues to be heard (even though they may have great ideas and important points to contribute).

Understanding and working with personality and communication preferences which are different to yours takes more awareness, time and effort, but the rewards are more than worth it.

One of my team, a talented round the world skipper, told me a story about his race across the North Pacific. One of his crew spent hours pouring over the meteorology charts to determine the quickest course through the weather systems, always waiting for the latest update before deciding on course and unpopularly spending lots of time below deck (while his colleagues froze upstairs). This drove the skipper (who preferred big pictures and quick decisions) up the mast. But ultimately, he conceded that the team’s success was in part due to their excellent course decisions, so they worked together to obtain the best balance of detail and decisiveness, and crucially, explained to the rest of the team why this was important.

Back to the corporate world, it is worth remembering that, even within a single profession, different personality types working together bring huge advantages. Take lawyers for instance, profession of which I have direct experience. Traditionally, you would expect a high preference for detail, task-focus, logical thinking, procedures, away-from motivation, internal reference, reactive action, organisation, self-motivation and probably introversion.

However, a modern corporate lawyer would also benefit from being proactive (when the case circumstances change), options driven (to come up with a creative solution), towards motivated (to achieve specific goals set by the client), seeing the big picture (how their work fits within the commercial solution and the whole business), people-focused (to understand the client’s needs and be a good team leader) and an extrovert (winning business, negotiating clauses, presenting in court, networking with clients). One person may not be able to fill all these criteria, but a team will.

Every time I conduct DISC or Jung-typology based profiles with teams, I ask what the purpose is. Some clients request whether I can devise a profile that shows that a particular person is in the wrong role. They have already made up their mind and would like “evidence”. In my opinion, this is a dangerous game, which disempowers the leader and weakens the team. Profiles are not weapons; they are means of increasing understanding and awareness. Used as weapons, they will make people defensive, resistant to any change and suspicious. Trust will be lost. However, used to their best, they can significantly improve team cohesion, efficiency, communications and productivity.

So how can you get the best out of profiling?

– Choose the best fitting profiling instrument for your situation. There are hundreds on the market. Some are better for individual career development, others for team building, others still for understanding communication styles. Determine what objective you would like to achieve. Be as specific as possible.

– Ensure that your chosen profile instrument and its results are appropriately presented to the participants. When introducing any instrument to participants, I never use the word “Test”. “Test” implies that there are right and wrong answers. Worse still I have come across some instruments that produce “red” for “bad” results and “green” for “good” results. Those simply make the participants defensive and more resistant to change.

– Be clear with the participants the about the purpose of profiling – if you would like to improve intra-team communications with DISC, present the instrument as a means of understanding each other’s and their own communication preferences, rather than as a general personality profile. Participants will be much more open to interpreting, sharing and applying the results.

– Consider confidentiality issues. Who will see the results of profiling? Head of HR? Managers? Colleagues? This is very likely to affect how participants answer the questions, and therefore, may compromise the usefulness of profiling. In a team profiling session, it is helpful to set out at the outset that the results will be shared between team members. This manages expectations and builds trust.

– Ensure that the profiling process and its results are professionally explained and delivered. In the wrong hands, profiling is at best a waste of time and money, and in the worst scenario could be damaging for the team and its members.

– Do not label people. Explain that profiles can change over time, are highly context-specific (work, crisis, personal life, public image, self-image) and the results are generally a combination of qualities, none of which are “bad”.

– Beware of participants conforming to type. A participant who obtains a high “D” (Dominance) in DISC may use this as an excuse/explanation for being impatient and blunt with colleagues. Instead, they should be encouraged to be more aware of the impact of their style on others and more understanding of other styles.

– Pre-hire profiling results do not predict in-job levels of drive, commitment and motivation. Those factors make a HUGE difference to performance and productivity.

– Finally, it is essential to USE the information gained from profiling. Very often once the profiling exercise is completed, it is quickly forgotten about and old habits are resumed. In order to assimilate new information about themselves and others, participants need to apply it in a way that is memorable and rewarding. This is one of the reasons why we combine profiling with tailor-made team building activities run by experienced coaches who can practically demonstrate the different styles and how they can work most effectively together. The other reason is because well-thought-out team building is fun and rewarding, developing trust, respect and understanding between team members.

Be creative and get everyone involved. It helps to take your team out of the humdrum of their office life – how about sailing, adventure courses, cooking, bridge building, fire fighting, logical reasoning puzzles, making clay pots? We have discovered that sailing is fantastic for improving communication, adventure courses teach trust and there are few activities more effective than a team campfire for thawing through team tensions. The key is to make the overall experience empowering for everyone and show how their insights can be transferred to their day-to-day work.

If you would like more information on coaching, profiling or team building events please contact Natalia for a free consultation.

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