One of the things we know from the research on team performance is that getting great results from a team isn’t just about everyone getting along or coming to quick agreement. In fact, when the problems are complex or we need to push the boundaries for innovation, creative abrasion, which comes from the collaboration of diverse thinking styles and perspectives, can make the difference.
But it can also make people uncomfortable.
That’s why just having cognitive diversity on a team isn’t enough. If the process isn’t managed properly, the team can devolve into unproductive conflict, frustration and chaos.
Particularly in the case of highly diverse groups, an effective leader or facilitator is essential. The most successful team leaders value the differences on the team and encourage people to bring their best thinking to work, helping to both bridge the diversity of thought in the group and keep the Whole Brain® in mind so all perspectives are heard.
Here are some tips for managing the team’s collective brainpower and making the abrasion that sometimes occurs an advantage:
- Encourage team members to learn about and share their preferred thinking styles and discuss the impact of differences and similarities among team members on the performance of the team.
- Understand the strengths of the group and how the dominant preferences can be effectively harnessed towards reaching the team’s objectives.
- Recognize and bring in the diversity of thought necessary to get the best results.
- Use the Whole Brain® Model as a framework to guide the team’s actions. At the beginning of a project or periodically throughout the team’s engagement, ask questions from each quadrant, such as:
A. Do we have clear performance goals, objectives and measurements?
B. Do we have clear priorities, a plan and a timeline?
C. Do we have an understanding of our “customer” and each other?
D. Are we taking appropriate risks to challenge ourselves and come up with new ideas?
Don’t discount the importance of this key team role, whether it’s a manager, team lead, or even a more informal rotating assignment.
What are your tips for getting the most of a team’s cognitive diversity?
One thing that’s becoming clear in today’s VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) world is that effective teams can give organizations a distinct advantage. They bring together the people power and the thinking power to get things done faster, more efficiently and more successfully.
But we also know it’s not as simple as that. There’s a reason less than a quarter of workers prefer to work on teams.
Are more team-building activities the answer? Sensitivity training? Personality and communications workshops?
These activities can be helpful, but on their own, they’re not enough. The frustrations, miscommunications, subpar results, and same issues that keep coming up, time and again, bear this out.
The problem is that too many organizations try to build trust — a key attribute of effective teams — by focusing on behavioral issues first. But because behaviors can be affected by a variety of external factors, the fix is often only a temporary one at best. To build trust, we have to focus first on what drives the team’s behaviors and actions at the root level: thinking.
Missing this key ingredient means organizations will also miss out on the full potential, power and competitive advantage teams can provide. Particularly in today’s world, as cross-functional teaming increases, more team members operate virtually and globally, and projects and problems are becoming more complex, a focus on how the team thinks will become even more critical to developing exceptional, consistently high-performing teams.
We’re creating teams to bring together and then funnel the knowledge and skills of the members towards solving business problems and achieving business outcomes. While teambuilding exercises can build camaraderie, and personality and sensitivity workshops can develop interpersonal understanding to help improve communications, none of these can really take hold without a foundation in how the team’s collective intelligence fuels business outcomes.
And after all, achieving business outcomes is what they’re there for, right?
Our next white paper will address key ways you can apply a thinking-based approach to get the most from every “meeting of the minds” so you can truly leverage the power of teams. It will also explore how to use the designed-for-business Whole Brain® framework to:
- Optimize a department’s strategic and day-to-day effectiveness
- Set virtual and far-flung teams up for success
- Make cross-functional really work
- Give “voice” to the full cognitive diversity within the team
- Strategically deploy teams to solve critical business problems
In the meantime, tell us: What are the biggest challenges you’re facing in getting the full benefits of the team’s collective intelligence? Are there any standout team experiences that come to mind? What made them work so effectively?
Share your thoughts in the comments, and be sure to check back next month to download the free white paper.
Thinking Styles and the US Presidential Candidates: It’s HOW they think as well as WHAT they think
We know thinking preferences play a part in the decision-making process, and many US residents are facing a big, once-every-four-years decision right now: who they will elect as President.
Putting aside political or ideological differences, when we look at the thinking styles of the two major party candidates, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, and their respective running mates, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, we can see some distinct differences. It’s an interesting exercise, because how the candidates think impacts the approaches they use in stating their cases to the voters.
To shed some light on the thinking preferences of the two parties’ candidates, we recently conducted a pro forma process, which is a way to use published information to analyze someone’s thinking and estimate what their preferences might be.
It’s not an actual HBDI® Profile generated from the assessment, but it does provide some clues about how and why different voters react to the different candidates and their different styles.
Your own thinking preferences affect your reactions to the different approaches. Whether you are more convinced by logical arguments or emotional appeals, for example, has roots in your preferences for thinking in each of the four quadrants (A - logical, B - detailed, C - expressive, D - big picture), as depicted by the Whole Brain® Model.
Understanding thinking styles helps clarify your thinking and decision making, as well as better understand how others (like our spouse/partner, family members or friends) make those decisions.
As you look at the pro forma profiles for the candidates below, consider your reaction to the styles you have observed:
- How do your thinking style preferences impact your reactions, opinions and decision-making as a voter?
- Aside from your political leanings, what approaches tend to inspire you or irritate you most?
Seventy days, 8,000-plus miles, 1,000 towns, and one momentous flame.
Preparing for what was dubbed the “logistical minefield” of the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay wasn’t so much a physical test as a mental one for the organizers and sponsors of the London Games.
As a Worldwide Partner, Coca-Cola knew it would need to unleash its full brainpower to execute with flawless communication, stay agile in the face of enormous complexity, and generate world-class teamwork from a diverse group of people who, for the most part, had never worked together before.
We recently spoke with David Barker, Strategic HR Business Partner for Coca-Cola’s London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games project teams, about the company’s decision to bring in the Whole Brain® methodology, training and tools to help prepare its Olympic teams for success.
As we discovered, while the Games would soon become a part of history, the framework and collaborative benefits of Whole Brain® Thinking were just getting started as a foundation for the culture going forward at Coca-Cola Great Britain.
Download the full story here for a glimpse behind the scenes of Coca-Cola’s innovative approach to preparing for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Earlier this year, we talked about the challenges new hires often face when joining a company, and how organizations and their leaders can “teach culture” to ease the onboarding process.
Another new survey of 500 human resource professionals shows just how important the onboarding and employee engagement processes are — in real financial terms.
According to Allied Van Lines’ 2012 Allied Workforce Mobility Survey, employers are losing nearly a quarter of their new hires within the first year. Of those that remain, one-third fail to achieve productivity targets.
Citing an average cost of $10,731 to fill one position, and another $21,033 per new hire for relocation, the study shows how this retention and productivity problem is more than just an HR issue; it’s a bottom-line issue.
Why are new hires leaving? According to the respondents, the top three reasons are managerial relationships, job performance and career advancement opportunities.
As the economy turns around and hiring picks up, your organization may need to take a fresh look at the onboarding and employee engagement processes. So much has changed in the workplace and business environment over the past few years, yet many of our internal systems and processes haven’t kept up.
Here’s an innovative approach a pharmaceutical company we’ve worked with has taken.
While training and a strong coaching culture already existed, the company worked with its sales managers to help them better understand the mental demands of the sales rep positions they were filling as well as their own and their employees’ thinking preferences.
By mapping the job responsibilities against the thinking processes involved, and then looking at their own thinking preferences as well as the preferences of the new hires, they could not only put together a more focused, targeted development plan, they could better align their coaching to the individual.
Many of the new hires were recent college graduates. This approach didn’t just give them a faster way to learn the ropes and achieve productivity goals — although it did, reducing the average ramp-up time from two years to just seven months — it also brought them into the culture in a more significant way. They appreciated the insights they learned about thinking preferences, many commenting that they’d wished they’d known this information when they were in school.
What onboarding or retention challenges have you seen since hiring has picked back up? Have you used any Whole Brain® Thinking approaches to make the process easier and more effective?
Most of us have stories of being a new hire or new to the team and having to figure out what the norms are, what the lingo means, and in general, what the culture is really all about. It’s often a process of discovery, and sometimes it can be an eye-opening one at that.
While it’s not unusual for the organizational culture to be revealed in this gradual, informal way, a recent blog post from Talent Management Magazine makes the case for taking the time upfront to teach new hires about the culture.
Citing the book, Successful Onboarding: A Strategy to Unlock Hidden Value Within Your Organization, by Mark A. Stein and Lilith Christiansen, the post explains that teaching culture during onboarding reduces the learning curve and helps people acclimate faster.
We have heard many interesting examples of how companies are using the Whole Brain® framework to develop and ground their culture, and how they’re also using it to create and communicate the vision and values to new and long-time employees alike.
It also gives people a common language to talk about who they are and how they approach work. As the CEO of one IT firm told us, “It’s quite amazing how a lot of people in the organization have got their HBDI® Profile mounted on their desk. And people are saying ‘I’m yellow, I like to work in a yellow environment.’”
But do new hires know what “I’m yellow” means?
When they come on board, between the hectic pace of ramping up and previously set course schedules, the timing may not be right for new hires to attend a class in Whole Brain® Thinking. That’s one of the reasons Stein and Christiansen point to interactive technology as a good option for communicating culture quickly and consistently.
With Whole Brain® concepts, many companies use the Thinking Accelerator™ featuring HBDIinteractive™ simulation to quickly bring people up to speed on the language of Whole Brain® Thinking and their own preferred styles of thinking.
What are some of the methods and tools you’re using to teach culture to new employees? Have you used the Whole Brain® Model to organize your onboarding process? We’d love to hear your experiences with onboarding and corporate culture. Share them below in the comments!
How do you win senior management’s confidence and commitment when your initiatives are competing for time, attention and budget?
Learn how you can better harness your own thinking preferences and the brainpower of those around you to make your case. Ann Herrmann-Nehdi shows you how in the free HR.com webinar, Getting Buy-in for Your HR Initiatives: Applying C-Level Thinking for Faster and Better Results.
In her signature high-energy, interactive presentation style, Ann demonstrates ways you can adapt your thinking to the circumstances to quickly get the buy-in you need, exploring the distinct thinking styles of C-level leaders and the specific questions they focus on when making key business decisions. Ann will show you how to align your own thinking with theirs to increase your strategic outlook, build your influence and present a compelling business case.
If you’re in Human Resources, Training, Learning & Development, or any role that needs to present a compelling case to senior management, this technique- and tip-filled webinar is a don’t miss, as several participant evaluation comments from the live session attest:
It was very good the first time around and I am going to watch it again because there was so much good information I may have missed something and want to absorb as much as possible. Thanks!
This speaker and her slides were awesome!!!! I want to review the information again and again. This is a tool that will help me develop a roadmap to getting better buy-in with the changes that need to occur in the world of benefits.
Excellent research and timely topic as we are doing more with a whole lot less! I definitely gained more insight for effective communications with senior leaders.
Engaging Employees: Pay Attention to What Really Matters
From business magazines to HR publications to health and wellness websites, employee engagement is one of the hot topics of the moment.
The Googles and Zappos.com's of the world are often name-dropped as examples of companies that are doing it right, keeping their employees happy and, well, keeping their employees.
But what makes them happy? Is it the perks like free food and dry cleaning? The financial incentives? The social activities?
Before you install that coffee bar, take a look at what employees say really matters to them.
While Google offers many perks, the research shows that these aren’t actually the primary drivers of job satisfaction. Referring to the results of his study of more than 1,400 US-based companies, Mark Murphy, CEO of Leadership IQ, put it bluntly about what motivates employees:
“What they really need is a workplace that isn't going to irritate them.”
What actually makes Google so successful, he adds, “is the competition of ideas, the pure meritocracy, whoever has the best idea wins."
Blessing White’s Employee Engagement Report echoes these findings. In their survey of more than 11,000 people around the globe, they found that “employees worldwide view opportunities to apply their talents, career development and training as top drivers of job satisfaction.”
And managers, they point out, aren’t necessarily focusing on the things that matter most to their employees.
No wonder employees are irritated. And no wonder the high potentials at those organizations are looking for other opportunities.
What motivates one person won’t necessarily motivate another, but applying what we know about the brain makes it easier for leaders to understand how different employees prefer to think and approach their work and what they pay attention to. Because thinking drives behavior, it gives leaders the clues and framework to focus on what will really engage, motivate and retain their employees.
If you’re an HBDI® Certified Practitioner, be sure to register for the January 25th THINC™ Webinar, Don’t Lose Your Top Talent! Engaging Employees With Whole Brain® Leadership, for specific tips and takeaways on how to help your managers take action to engage their employees in a meaningful way.
The Whole Brain® Model (shown above), based on 30 years of research, is a validated metaphor for how we think, providing a useful framework to diagnose and describe the different types of thinking involved in any organization. It divides thinking into four quadrants, two on the “left brain” side and two on the “right brain” side. All four of the different thinking modes are in use and available to all of us, but we tend to prefer certain types over others.
In what kinds of situations can Whole Brain® Thinking be used?
Any situation that requires thinking that goes beyond a given quadrant's specialized mode can benefit from Whole Brain® Thinking. To insure that each quadrant has been explored in a given process, an approach called a Walk-Around™ is used. (The Walk-Around™ pad is a great tool for facilitating this.)
Here are four examples of frequently used applications of Whole Brain® Thinking:
Most decisions benefit from a thought process that includes the review of multiple options and perspectives. A typical example is the purchase of a car. Quadrant A thinkers look at information on the actual performance of the vehicle. Quadrant B thinkers read a consumer report to gather research on the reliability and practical features (trunk size, safety records, etc.) of the vehicle. Quadrant C thinkers test drive the car to see if it “feels” right. And Quadrant D focuses on the aesthetics, color, styling and innovations of each model.
Using Whole Brain® Thinking—the thinking of all quadrants—contributes to a better choice and avoids unpleasant surprises. Overlooking even one quadrant can result in a less than ideal outcome.
Every problem situation can benefit from a Quadrant A review of the data and facts, as well as an analysis of the real problem at hand; the Quadrant D “big-picture” context and possible creative ideas; Quadrant C viewpoint of the “customer” of the problem and how the problem affects others; and Quadrant B step-by-step process to solve the problem and implement the solution.
Improving team interactions and performance
Most teams are formed to make the most of the differences among team members. But very often those differences stand in the way of the team living up to its potential. Whole Brain® Thinking can help a team to acknowledge the differences among team members and then use those differences to make the most of the ideas of each team member. In addition, once a team knows its preferences it can use that knowledge to enhance its communication with other teams and work groups which may have thinking preferences that are quite different.
The objective of most communication is to convey an idea, transfer information or persuade someone. How many times have you experienced the frustration of delivering a message only to realize that the other person “just didn’t get it.” In order to communicate effectively, it's important to understand the “language” and mindset of the person(s) you are communicating with. A diagnosis of the thinking preferences of the audience can provide the critical planning information you need to tailor your language and presentation to the audience. When the audience's preferences are in doubt, taking a Whole Brain® approach to communication ensures that you've covered all the “languages.” This reduces the possibility of miscommunication and improves the chance that your message will be successfully received by the audience.
This guest post was contributed by Herrmann International Asia.
In addition to the thinking preferences of people, we can also use the Whole Brain® Model to diagnose processes, organizational cultures, vision and value statements, and a host of other systems we engage with on a daily basis. How are you applying Whole Brain® Thinking to get better results?
Like many others, I recently took off on vacation for a week. In the process I validated something learned earlier this year, that the most productive day of the year is universally the same day across the world: The day before you leave on vacation.
In order for me to mentally disconnect, I found myself in a very focused way, reviewing all of the short- and long-term projects and goals I have on my plate.
We are all carrying around a much greater “cognitive load” these days, and vacation time, even if it is just a long weekend, provides an opportunity to give ourselves a necessary breather. Our brains need the break to function optimally.
Most people consider their cognitive load in a traditional and linear format—like a to-do list. The challenge is this format does not lend itself to the complex and interdependent work we live in today.
Today’s world creates a lot of cognitive load, where our work and personal lives overlap and create even more complexities. We’re checking e-mails in the evening and on weekends, and making phone calls to resolve personal issues during the day.
One colleague from IBM said it this way: The issue is no longer work-life balance; effective work-life integration is the challenge!
So how can you lighten your load? One solution is to draw out a map of your cognitive load.
A Quadrant: Financial, technical issues
B Quadrant: Unfinished projects, plans, organizational issues
C Quadrant: People and interpersonal issues
D Quadrant: Long-term concerns, “big picture” issues
2. “Unload” by writing down the key areas that represent cognitive load for you, those areas that weigh heaviest in your mind, for both work and personal.
3. Now look at the list. Is there anything you can outsource or delegate?
Leaving for a business trip or vacation is the perfect time to do this review since we will be doing it anyway. I went through this process and realized that in some areas, I was holding on to items I could easily outsource to others. Some call this delegation. I do plenty of that, too. However, the concept of outsourcing clearly implies the ownership is actually with the other entity.
On my list I had several items that I could just drop or defer to later in the year. Those were unloaded from the list.
In addition, I had “worrying about the stock market and our position in it” in the A quadrant. We are all struggling with the volatility of the market, overload of information and the worries that can create. My husband usually manages our stocks in our household, yet I was still hanging onto the “worrying.” I realized that by officially outsourcing this to him, I could let go of the worry with it.
What cognitive overload could you drop, outsource or delegate?