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A friend and I were chatting last week. He’s a team leader of engineers. We were discussing what he thought he needed by way of people and skill sets to create the ‘right’ team for the day job tasks, to achieve team KPIs, and to create a collaborative and positive working environment. We discussed the merits and shortcomings of selection tests that he's used in the past, which I frequently failed throughout my early career of university placements and graduate programme applications. Unsurprisingly, I'm not a fan of these. So what should you consider when building a team?
My colleague, Kim Christfort, a Deloitte Managing Director and co-author of Business Chemistry: Practical Magic for Crafting Powerful Work Relationships comments: “There are lots of ways to go about making your selection, and many of them involve some element of testing for fit. Like, do you think my working style is a fit for the role, or is my personality a fit for the culture? If you think I'm a good fit you might welcome me to the team, but if not, best of luck to me.
This kind of selection criterion can create teams who work together smoothly. But here's the common problem: People who feel like a good fit are often a lot like you. You might share the same perspectives and prefer the same communication methods. You might also possess the same strengths and weaknesses. It 'feels' comfortable, harmonious, and 'nice' to work in a team of people who work similarly to you.”
It can still be tempting to select team mates this way but does a team formed in such a way really push the boundaries, consider all options no matter how 'impractical', or consult and engage all the necessary stakeholder groups in the process required to help them truly make a difference?
Kim goes on to say: “If you’re a creative 'Pioneer' type, being around other creatives can inspire you to new heights of innovation, but if you're honest can you waste a lot of time and money chasing one impractical idea after another, then abandoning each before they come to fruition? If you’re a detail 'Guardian' person, it can be a real relief to be around others who get the importance of the little things, but can you get trapped in a state of ‘analysis paralysis’, make little progress, and end up choking on the dust of your competitors. This is typically not a recipe for success.”
A team with a majority type tends to favour that type’s perspective and way of working, overshadowing those of any token minorities. Be careful of 'groupthink' and take care to consult all voices and opinions in the room. You will reach a better collective answer, which is not always the quickest or the most researched route.
Next time you’re selecting a new team member, imagine you’re locked in one of those escape rooms - would you want everyone in the room to have the same strengths and weaknesses? Probably not. Suppose you’re all great at taking charge in a high pressured environment, but in your 'Driver' competitiveness to 'win' means you don't listen to 'Integrator' team members who have worked out that every member of the team is required to solve the clue. Would it make sense to select a new teammate who was just like the rest of you? Too many chefs spoil the broth right?
“So next time you're thinking about how to make your team even more successful, take a quick inventory of the perspectives, working styles, strengths, and weaknesses of your current members. And then review how your team's ways of working may support the preferences and needs of some types more than others. Because your goal should not be just to add diversity, but also to actively manage it by creating an environment where all types can thrive. You’ve got to find ‘fit’ for what you need to achieve.”
So, did I make it out of the escape room…? Well, that would be telling.
Jessica founded and leads Deloitte’s Business Chemistry client practice for the UK and North South Europe member firms. A business behavioural tool designed to help teams communicate and collaborate better for greater success, Business Chemistry is a proprietary self-assessment tool used to support boards, executive, and senior leadership teams across the FTSE, private, and public sectors. She helps teams understand each other’s working styles; hold honest conversations; be better leaders of diverse teams; build plans for enhanced collaboration; team deliberately for a common purpose; and build trust quickly to achieve strategic and organisational goals. The book ‘Business Chemistry: Practical Magic for Crafting Powerful Relationships – a guide to putting cognitive diversity to work’ was released in the US and UK in May 2018.