Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Team building is a balancing act in an organization

It is important to remember that there are no bad competencies or bad profiles
 
BUILDING teams in an organisation is becoming an increasingly complex and challenging task.

Many organisations are employing the use of assessment tools to give another perspective of the individuals being considered for the purpose of recruitment or even succession planning, which is often an integral part of building a cohesive team. As an executive search consultant and coach, I have found such tools to be very insightful in many instances. One of the biggest lessons for me as a result of using such assessment tools is that bringing together diverse groups of competencies often result in stronger teams.

Most people would choose to work with people who are like themselves. It is a common perception that people with similar personality types will likely be on the same wavelength and get along well together. However, I had the opportunity to work closely with a colleague who is very frank and direct in her communication and work style. My personal style of communication is almost a direct opposite of hers whereby I gravitate to being a lot more diplomatic. Both of us work well together because we can bridge the gaps in each other's work style and cover a lot more ground when collaborating on projects. In most cases when dealing with savvy clients, they want to know the truth but the tactful delivery of facts are also equally important.

As a leader, I am not keen on finding someone exactly like me, as I know I am not perfect and having clones of myself would only magnify my faults. By understanding my own personality profile better, I am able to surround myself with people who are able to bring other competencies to the table and by working together, we would be able to support each other to produce better results and more holistic solutions and better results.

I have noticed that more and more leaders are becoming aware of the need for diversity in their workspace. A decade or two ago my clients often wanted me to look for people who were almost identical to themselves or someone within their organisation. “Just find me someone like John,” or “Don't you have any candidates like my deputy?”

However, employers and leaders are now becoming savvier when it comes to building teams. They are realising that by building diverse teams they are able to address more of their customers' needs and reduce their blind spots. Even clients who have not been exposed to any psychometric assessment tools are able to splice together a profile by using terminology that they are familiar with. For example, I spoke with a client who wanted me to find him a chief operating officer who could think strategically like his head of corporate strategy but the individual also needed to be literate with numbers like his finance director and able to deep-dive to fix problems. Whilst this may seem like a tall order, this description was able to provide another perspective and added another dimension to the job description, which in most cases is only a two-dimensional document. Hence, it became a lot easier to understand the client's requirements from that point onwards.

The results of an assessment project can sometimes be an eye-opener and a driver for change. One such organisation, a multinational company in the manufacturing sector, discovered through an assessment project that the majority of their managers were classified as innovators. Being innovative is a highly desired skill in many organizations, especially in leadership roles. On the other hand, innovators are generally out-of-the-box thinkers and are not very likely to analyse pitfalls well or they may be less detail oriented when it comes to implementation. Faced with the study results, their top management embarked on a development program to build up the other competencies their managers were lacking in. At the same time, they also made a conscious effort to hire more detail-oriented managers who could be more effective on areas of the business that called for more precision. They also created a role for a risk manager to mitigate potential risks that the innovative managers may have missed in their eagerness to try new and different approaches.

I have also come across leaders who have the misconception that their subordinates cannot be better qualified than the leaders themselves. These were usually leaders who enjoyed having their own “kingdoms” and didn't want to “rock the boat.” They tend to hire “yes” men who would carry out instructions without questioning or offer any kind of resistance. As a result, the organisation is likely to stagnate at some point, as there will usually be a bottleneck when it comes to making decisions. The calibre of the managers hired would be of a lower level, as the leader would not want to have subordinates that may outshine them as leaders. As such most decision-making will have to be directed to the top management, as these managers would not be empowered to make decisions.

Although it is not ideal, the leader preferred this approach and this might even work well until the business grows beyond the tipping point whereby the leader will eventually need to empower some capable managers to take on more of the decision-making tasks. As an employee and team member, it is useful to know what our competencies are as this will pave the way for us to develop ourselves in areas that we may not be as proficient in. We can align ourselves to mentors who may have a profile that complements ours or who can help us develop these competencies. It is also handy to know your colleagues' profiles where possible so that we can use the right communication style to get our message across.

For instance, some people prefer receiving emails as this gives them time to craft an appropriate response whilst others may want to have a face-to-face discussion so that they can obtain immediate feedback. At times, this information also tells us why we are unable to get along with certain people in our organisations.

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that there are no bad competencies or bad profiles. Nobody is perfect. We all possess competencies; some are similar and some different from the people we work with. It is more important to know what our competencies are and to what degree they influence our communication with others. It is not just the truth but knowing the truth that makes the difference, as this is the starting point for building effective teams.

by Talking Hr with Pauline Ng

Pauline Ng is the consulting director and head of BTI Consultants. She believes that we need to understand what makes a person tick so that we can build more effective teams 

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