Let me introduce you to four fictional members of an equally fictional team:
Donna is a really productive member of this team. She works independently, is very confident and decisive. Donna has no time for small talk and can be hard to get along with as she is often seen as bossy.
Ian is great at motivating others and really enthusiastic, often coming up with new ideas. He is talkative, really friendly and always encourages everyone in the team to get together for drinks each Friday. He can be easily distracted, and doesn’t always finish things he starts, which can be frustrating for others.
Steve is a quiet member of this team and really calm under pressure. He is also a great listener and cares about everyone else in the team. He doesn’t speak up in meetings and struggles with change at times which can cause frustration. Steve avoids conflict and likes the team to always be in harmony.
Claire is a quiet and very diligent worker. She is conscientious and really takes the time to get her job done to the best of her ability. She likes to be right, so can be seen as inflexible and indecisive. Claire doesn’t like talking about herself and appears withdrawn or not interested in others.
The chances are, one of the members of this team is a bit like others who you work with. Also, one of Donna, Ian, Steve or Claire is also a fair bit like you – which one is it? Most importantly, what impact does it have on the performance of your team?
Leading Teams use a behavioural preference tool, the DiSC profile, in our workshops with teams. There are many different versions of these types of activities and each provide information about different characteristics of team members, perhaps a little bit like those explained above.
Whatever tool you use, every person in a team has a preference for the way they behave (whether you like it or not!) and what’s especially important in the work we do is how people behave under pressure. Each member in this fictional team brings value to the team, as well as having some shortcomings. How you behave in your team will also bring value at times, as well as cause frustration in others. One of the main reasons for conflict in teams is simply the fact that people do things differently to the way you do.
Leading Teams is particularly interested in the way people behave when they’re in conflict – Donna will deal with conflict head on, whereas Steve will avoid it. People in teams will also communicate differently – Claire will base her communication on detail and fact, whereas Ian will speak quickly and often about himself.
We always encourage high performing leaders to become more aware about themselves – after all, you can’t lead others until you really understand yourself. What we also encourage leaders to do is to learn more about others, particularly so you can utilise strengths in your team for optimal team performance.
What we don’t do, is allow anyone to make excuses for the way they behave. Despite all this knowledge about behaviour, people choose how they behave each and every day, in every situation.
A team full of Donna’s, Ian’s, Steve’s or Claire’s could be a disaster if we allowed it to be. We encourage leaders to decide which characteristics they would like to learn or develop and challenge themselves to stretch or redirect some of their behaviour. This reinforces the value of working in a team, to get some support or feedback from others to help this development occur. For example, Claire could learn from Donna how to be decisive, and Donna from Steve as to value relationships.
Teams work at their optimum when their professional relationships are strong enough to withstand these differences. This means, that regardless of how people behave when they’re under pressure, other members of the team have an awareness, understanding of and empathy for each other. As long as we don’t make excuses for poor behaviour, it helps the performance of the team when we understand each other. And even though we all approach building strong professional relationships in different ways, we can still choose to do this with all members of our team for optimal performance.
What are you willing to do to build relationships with all members of your team – even those who are least like you?