Between Minds: An Ongoing Taxonomy of Team Dynamics
Between your weekday project team and your weekend softball league, you’re likely bombarded with messages reinforcing the importance of teamwork. Consider the motivational posters tacked up around your office or locker room:
- “There is No ‘I’ in ‘Team”
- “Keeping together is progress. Working together is success”
- “Share victory. Share defeat”
You may wonder if these wordsmiths have actually met the people you work with. Crazy Larry from the graphic design department. Carla the cat lady at the front desk. George from tech support, who hasn’t said five words to you in the eight months he’s been here. Sometimes you wonder how your office manages to clean out the fridge once a month, let alone deliver a project by deadline.
Yet team synergy can be something more than a buzzword: An effective team can carry a project through from inception to completion with a minimal amount of external supervision. Members understand and fulfill their roles, important information is communicated quickly through the chain of command, and updates and comments are posted frequently.
When a team doesn’t function this effectively, it could be that members are tasked assignments that don’t play to their strengths. Recognizing different team member personalities and work styles will help you better understand their distinct skills and tendencies, and better position them to succeed.
For example, Crazy Larry isn’t really crazy, he’s just right brain dominant and chooses tasks according to whatever is in front of him. Give him a daily planner and he’ll be much more efficient.
Carla may seem aloof sometimes, but sometimes cat people are like that. Ask her about Tigger’s latest vet appointment and she’ll talk to you for hours. And George from tech support just happens to be an introvert. He likes it down there in the basement with the servers. Just send him an email with your password problems and he’ll be happy to assist.
To help you better understand the Larrys, Carlas and Georges of your office, we present: “Between Minds: An Ongoing Taxonomy of Team Dynamics.” This series of infographics will present a detailed breakdown of office personalities and team member attributes. We’ll consider “optimists vs. pessimists,” “pragmatists vs. activists,” “L.A. vs. New York” and all archetypes in between.
Click here to see if you are a thought leader vs. a do leader
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First up: thought leaders vs. do leaders.
Thought leaders are big-picture thinkers able to look beyond current projects and deadlines and sketch out a blueprint for the future. Thought leaders can shift both corporate perspectives and institutional capabilities to bring about game-changing outcomes for their organizations.
Do leaders are detail-oriented planners. They have the ability to meticulously and relentlessly push a project to completion. Do leaders can instinctively identify risks and devise mitigation plans. They set firm goals and can be intensely focused on getting to the next objective.
The thought leaders / do leaders dichotomy is, of course, not the whole picture. Few people fall exclusively into one camp or the other, and sometimes the split is as much situational as it is personality-driven. Sometimes a project leader will don the thought leader cap and throw out big ideas to a team capable of translating and implementing them. Other times that same project leader might have to take abstract ideas from creatives in the graphics department and flip them into something concrete and actionable.
But several real-world examples suggest that some people really do work best in one role or the other. And when an inventive thought leader is paired with an efficient do leader, the result is far greater than the sum of its parts. Recent history provides some great examples of this: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Bill Belichick and Charlie Weis, Pinky and the Brain.
But no two business relationships better epitomize the thought leader / do leader synergy than Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, and Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.
Gates, of course, was Microsoft’s tech visionary and market strategist during the company’s ascendence to global empire in the 1980s and 1990s. But Steve Ballmer was the company’s top tactician, responsible for everything from shipping the first operating systems to hiring the best personnel. Ballmer dropped out of the Stanford Graduate School of Business to join Microsoft in 1980. Gates would identify new markets for Microsoft’s software, but it was Ballmer who plotted strategies to seize and occupy them.
Like Gates, Apple co-founder and longtime CEO Steve Jobs was a visionary capable of presaging major shifts in the consumer tech landscape. But Jobs’ success wouldn’t have happened without tactician / do leader Steve Wozniak, a skilled engineer with a penchant for tinkering. The pair blended Wozniak’s tech acumen and Jobs’ marketing genius to build the first Apple computer in Jobs’ family garage in 1976.
The Gates/Ballmer, Jobs/Wozniak pairings succeeded because their relationships were complementary. As a project manager, you can harness the strengths of both personalities through effective communication, project planning, and assignment delegation. But you also have to recognize potential weaknesses and try to mitigate.
For instance, thought leaders often become emotionally involved with projects, especially those that they have “personalized” with their brand. But they can quickly become disengaged if they sense they’ve lost creative control. It’s important to keep thought leaders focused on creative, active projects, especially when old projects are lost in management feedback purgatory.
Do leaders are great at putting their nose to the grindstone, but sometimes they become so focused on task details they forget big picture goals. They’re not myopic, necessarily, just preoccupied. Make sure that when do leaders provide you with their daily status updates, you, in turn, explain to them how the project is perceived by the brass upstairs, and how it fits in with a larger management agenda.
Have any other examples of successful thought leader / do leader pairings? Recognize any personality dichotomies in your office? Wonder what happened to Carla’s cat Tigger at the vet? Let us know in the comment section.