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Building team performance strategy

Team building has to be one of the most well-trodden boards in business. A good analogy would be American evangelist preachers. Everyone has a theory, everyone can tell you how to do it well, they can sell themselves but most of this is just regurgitating older theories for financial benefit.

If like me you’ve actually had to build teams that perform for a living (and your job depends on it) you might have a cynical view on the ‘team building consultants’.

I’ve built digital and creative teams for the past 2 decades. I’ve made mistakes – everybody does, but I’ve learned a great deal from those mistakes. I can now spot a problematic team member at 40 paces and can tell you who will be in charge 5 years down the line. How?

I have a true passion for human psychology. I’ve read the usual literature and books that ‘management consultants’ quote out of context, I’ve also read the ones they haven’t, but I believe that I have developed a proven tool kit that allows me to build performing teams.

My method is built on a mixture of vertical dynamics, HAS mapping and the vastly underrated ‘connect with humans on a human level’.

If we take creative’s and techs. Both believe that they are vastly different from the other. From the creative’s point of view, techs are geeks who do not understand the subtlety of design. Techs believe that creative’s have limited ability to understand the complex. I’ve learned that they are both the same.

On a fundamental level, we can pigeon-hole both sets into 5 distinct character types. They are as follows:

  • Speedsters
  • Encyclopaedias
  • Ninjas
  • Mac Monkeys/Geeks
  • Constructors

Team members will never accept that they can be pigeon-holed (who would admit that) but this method has not failed me yet and kept me my job in many tricky situations. So what are these character types?

Speedsters charge through their tasks. The get things done incredibly quickly. Too quickly. They are overconfident and their work is prone to mistakes. This is bad for a team. It means that their leader has to micro manage every task, audit for quality control and back-track. This is the lowest ‘team player’.

Next up is the encyclopaedia. This team member is a walking encyclopaedia of knowledge, a perfectionist, somebody who is absolutely sure of the correct way to complete the task. Unfortunately, the encyclopaedia is too slow in completing the task for modern teams. The scope will creep, the tasks will expand and even though the end result is ‘perfect’, the time element has overtaken any possibility of commercial value. The encyclopaedia is second to bottom in the team building chart.

Then we have the Ninja. The Ninja is the not the most amiable. The Ninja has a brain the size of a small planet and knows it. Absolutely brilliant at problem solving. Absolutely brilliant under pressure, but far from leadership material due to their combative nature. Great on the team but never a good choice to lead.

Then we have the Mac Monkey. The Geek. The person who has a huge output, never complains (unless everyone else is), the truly reliable expert that never blows their own trumpet. I have never built a successful team without using this person as the foundation. They always under credit themselves but they are the most reliable part of the team. Employ as many as possible.

Finally, the constructor. Point the constructor at anything and they have the correct tool in their box to sort it out. A real people person (and you can’t learn that in a book) they can motivate a team and gain respect due to the fact that when push comes to shove they can do the job themselves. This is always the leader.

I’ll write another post outlining vertical dynamics (how we can identify the leaders using strategy) and also HAS mapping (Human Activity Systems mapping) to remove any human obstacles in the work-flow.

Published in Team building techniques


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