"I've tried everything! Why can't I get them the work together and perform at the levels I know they are capable of," I said to my then VP. His answer? "It's not that they are not capable, but you need to have the right people, in the right roles, doing the right things if you want it to change."
That sounded like such a cliche, executive answer and really gave me nothing to go on. I was in my early 20's and had recently been put in charge of an under-performing, but truly talented team So, I asked for more and his response was, "You need to figure this out for yourself because when you do, you'll be a great leader." He then added..."Start with getting to know your people intimately."
What the hell did that mean?
For those that have been in the position of starting a company or are in a leadership role; this situation can be all too familiar. How do you maximize the talents and abilities of the people around you? More importantly, how do you get them excited about it so that they want to participate?
It starts with creating the right environment (for more on this, read this post on The Four Pillars of Leadership), but as my VP stated to me above, and that I didn't fully understand at the time, you have to have the "right people, in the right roles, doing the right things."
But I did eventually figure it out...the Right People, the Right Roles, the Right Things. It was actually there in front of me the whole time and I had learned it before. It is probably is right in front of you.
It all comes down to understanding personalities.
A Bunch of Animals
Most everyone has done a personality test of some sort in their life. The most famous and most widely used is DISC. And frankly, I think it is the best and most accurate. The DISC test will tell you what personality type you are at work, at home, and also show you your dominant one and secondary, etc. And for most, when they take it, it nails them exactly.
I first took DISC when I was in college and it opened my eyes to who I really was and made me understand the different personality types, which are Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Contentiousness.
Yes, I know trying to remember those is intolerable, so years ago, I changed it up to animals because it gives a visual picture and allows you to associate it easily to people . I use Lion for Dominance, Otter for Influence, Golden Retriever for Steadiness, and Owl for Contentiousness.
Let's run through them:
The Lion: Lions are the take charge type, they're results oriented, short on details, and want to take action and get stuff done. They are highly focused on outcomes and sometimes come off as arrogant or not caring when they really are just honed in on an making something happen.
The Otter: Otters are the fun, enthusiastic, life of the party people. They're always happy and bubbly, and are great cheerleaders. They do have trouble taking criticism or dealing with knowing someone does not like them because "they want to be liked."
The Golden Retriever: Golden retrievers are loyal, understanding, by your side. The are supportive and love to collaborate and do well in a more stable setting. They can have trouble with confrontation.
The Owl: Owls are very detail oriented, definitive, and studious. They are very thorough and sometimes prone to over-analysis. Risk can be hard for them.
Who are some Lions, Otters, Golden Retrievers, and Owls in your life? Can you guess what types your employees or co-workers are?
How Does this Relate to Building a High Performing Culture?
What's the point of me telling you this? Its simple, the reason I was failing in my assignment was that I did NOT have the right people, in the right roles, doing the right things. And it wasn't their fault. I had Lions working with other Lions and Otters working with Owls and did not have them in roles that fit their personalities and did not allow them to maximize their success.
If you think about it, an Owl who is very thorough, detail driven is going to have trouble working with an Otter who is short on detail and wants to have fun and excitement all the time. Conversely, a Lion can absolutely run a Golden Retriever ragged and dominate decisions over them.
So, when you build a team, you have to think about the right people (personalities) for the roles that you are fulfilling and then make sure you have them doing the right things in working together.
For example, Golden Retrievers are great for service and client facing roles as they are understanding, considerate, always there and dependable, etc. On the other hand, you would not want to put a Lion in that role. They would be frustrated in hours. You want Lions running projects or anything with a goal or deadline they need to achieve. Owls are great for keeping tabs on things such as your accounting or operations. And Otters can make great sales people (if you can keep them focused!).
Once I realized this, I realigned my team and things started to fall into place. People worked more easily together, were more productive, and the performance improved greatly.
You Can Do It Too - Here are Some Tools
How do you put this to work for your business or organization? Simple, first take inventory and get to "intimately" know your people. Have them take a DISC test (in fact, have anyone in the interview process do so as well). The good news is that the test has been around for so long, there are tons of free ones online that you can use like this one.
Second, you can then look at the results and see if you need to realign people with roles that they are more suited for, or put them into teams where they will be more productive working with others. For example don't put all your Lions on one team (unless you want the fireworks).
Lastly, do some more research to understand DISC and take the test yourself to see where your weaknesses lie so you can hire for them. Here is a great one pager that I have used for years to help me understand the different types. It goes over the effective/ineffective traits of the each personality type, their interests in work, goals, fears, etc.
It's time to get to know your people intimately. Getting the "right people, in the right roles, doing the right things" will make a major difference in the success of your business or organization. You'll be amazed at how quickly it can happen...and how much it will help you in your hiring.
Drop me a note and let me know if this post was helpful, and just for fun, tell me which "animal" or "animals" that embody your personality.
Here's to your success!