Select Page

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.”

Harper Lee

Recently I conducted team-building workshops for a large directorate of a Federal Government Department.  The demographic was young graduates and future leaders. The exercise sought to explore team dynamics, understand the preferences for working styles within a group and to raise awareness of predominant individual styles.  The aim was simple – generate better understanding of teamwork within the group.

Part of the workshop was loosely based on the Compass Points Exercise developed by the National School Reform Faculty based in the U.S.A. Groups of graduates, up to 45 at a time were asked to walk a room and look at four posters placed on each wall of the room.  The four posters contained one of each of the following:

  • Acting – “Lets do it”. Likes to act, try things, plunge in.
  • Caring – Likes to know that everyone’s feelings have been taken into consideration and that their voices have been heard before acting.
  • Speculating – Likes to look at the big picture and possibilities before acting.
  • Paying attention to detail – Likes to know the who, what, where, when and why before acting.

Which group would you place yourself in?

Each graduate self-selected what they understood their preferential working style to be and then worked through a series of activities.

Have a go yourself right now. Answer the following questions:

  1. What do you see as the strengths of your style?
  2. How would you describe the limitations of your style?
  3. Which of the other three styles do you find it most difficult to work with and why?
  4. What do you want the other three styles to understand about how to work better with you?
  5. What do you value about people that are in the other three styles?

For example, it was not uncommon for the “Acting” style to indicate:

  • their strength was in the speed of their decision making
  • their limitations were that they often did not consider second and third order effects when taking action
  • they found it difficult to work with details-focussed people because they could be slow in coming to a decision
  • they valued the ‘carers’ ability to keep the humanistic element of decisions in the foreground, the ‘speculators’ for keeping the group focused on the longer term goals and the ‘details-focused’ for making sure that the correct checks and balances were in place.

There were many other examples and different groups came up with different answers, however, there were common themes throughout.

What do you think those themes might have been?

With this in mind, and having chosen a style for yourself, where would you place others that you work with?

For this particular workshop a different element was introduced; A few days prior, participants were asked, by confidential survey, to nominate which group they thought their teammates belonged.  The results were tallied and revealed at the end of the workshop. After identifying where they had placed themselves, they were told where their cohort had placed them.  As you might expect there were some interesting results.

So, where do you think your teammates would place you?

Around fifty percent were placed in a different category to where they placed themselves.  Some graduates who saw themselves as details focused were considered by the group to be big picture speculators.  Some “carers” were considered to be people of action.  When we dived into why this might be the group uncovered some useful insights:

  • How we see ourselves is not necessarily how others see us.
  • How others see us is based on the experiences we each have that inform our judgments and biases
  • The length of time someone has known us and the walls we have up will influence how others see us
  • We all have views on how we would like to be seen.

Ask yourself, if I wasn’t in the group I selected for myself, where would others place me and why?

Some people were very much confirmed in the way they saw themselves.  One participant who thought he was action oriented was seen that way by 37 out of his group of 42. Only two saw him as a speculator, two as a details focused person and only one as a carer.  While he was obviously happy to be seen as he saw himself he was concerned that he came across as someone who didn’t care about others.  It is here that one of the limitations of the activity surface. The participants are given a “forced choice”; they have to choose one category to place their team members in.  This does not mean that each person cannot, at any time, display characteristics of the other styles.  That said, there were some key lessons that came from investigating this feature as well:

  • It is useful to be aware of how you are impacting on others.
  • Just because you are predominantly seen as one style, doesn’t mean you can’t exhibit characteristics of another.
  • There is strength in having characteristics across all styles.

If you are predominantly of one style, what affect might that be having on others?

So, here’s what I’d like you to do….

This week as you interact others at work, take notice of how you perceive yourself and how you might be landing on those around you.  If there is someone you trust enough to give you honest feedback, approach them. Ask how they see you.  Be open to that feedback and try not to get defensive.  They are giving you good information with which to reflect on.  Also, consider what effect appearing to be all of one style may have.  Remember, we all have an image of ourselves.  How others see us may not be consistent with that image. This could be impacting on how you communicate with those around you. Becoming curious will allow you to further develop relationships and communicate better.

Are you curious about better teamwork within your organisation? Contact me at Campbell Leadership Solutions and we can discuss this and many other options for maximising the performance of your team.