No "yes, but" about it. Make your team your #1 consultant.
Here’s a couple tips that could save you thousands of dollars on consultants — and yes, of course I have an agenda here, which is to make a point about where to invest those dollars after I save them for you.
Thinking about hiring a consultant to help you figure out your team dynamics? This won’t be as eloquent as their presentation, but here’s a free overview of a typical workshop on personality styles: When you peel away all of the psychobabble and nomenclature about different personality "styles" or "constructs," there are four basic quadrants, and you probably need all represented on your team.
They are called many names (even colors), but here’s a cheat sheet. If you have more than 10 employees, you likely have, on your staff, (1) let-me-check-my-spreadsheet, anal retentive, detail-oriented people; (2) bossy (could be mistaken for arrogant) directive types who want you to get to the point, please; (3) a few "I’m not comfortable with you until I tell you all about my life and hear all about your life" people persons; and (4) a couple (don’t need too many of these) need-to-achieve, driven-to-march-to-their-own-drummer type who, if you are their supervisor, forget it, because leading them anywhere by traditional methods will feel like trying to herd a cat. Policy smolicy, they have a new idea about getting to Point C.
Now that I’ve saved you a couple grand on a "Let’s first define your employee makeup" guru, let’s save more money on a team-building consultant. Game? Okay, here we go. Question one: How many times can you do a "yes, and" icebreaker/group exercise and believe that you really are going to change your style of meetings? Let’s back up even further: Do you really want your brainstorming sessions to be more inclusive and welcoming to those who will never really understand or embrace brainstorming? If so, why?
When (and if) you do ferret out the creative assassin lurking in most groups (the one who can’t resist shutting down a session by muttering "What would you do that for?" in the middle of a brainstorming exercise), what are you going to do about it? Fire them for the sake of the greater creative culture you’re trying to build? Not likely, if they do a good job at what they were hired to do … which likely wasn’t brainstorming.
This is coming from a manger who has done that, been there. I’ve since learned to stop swimming upstream within a group of busy people and to pull out the few who actually like (and are adept at) brainstorming. I leave the others alone until it’s time for planning, and then I rattle their cages. And, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m the directive type who likes a good "yes, and," but only if it is "yes, and we can do that," not "yes, and [some lame excuse]."
That’s right: many a "yes, but" person who has learned to speak the "yes, and" language to get around a buzz-word driven manager. Since learning that, the "right" words don’t move me all that much. I prefer action over sentiment. Don’t tell me what you can or might do (if, if, if) — show me. Now.
So instead of hiring another consultant to recharge my batteries, I’m taking my crew on our annual retreat up to Dillman’s Bay, where we’re going to take a break from formulaic exercises. We’re going to go back to the basics again together — leaving behind mocha lattes, business attire, reliable cell phone coverage, and e-mail (will we survive it?) for a few days — during which I expect another heated debate about our business plans and budget, and an equally passionate discussion about our 2011 editorial calendar, event list, and new product plans.
Boring, you think? No way! My team is excited to go. Although they can bring family members, they all opted not to, because they are going up north to work.
The program agenda will include nightly campfires and time out for a little fishing and nature hiking (we will be, after all, surrounded on three sides by White Sands Lake) and I’ll sneak away for a few minutes every so often to play with my two dogs, but their focus and mine, even then, will be on our company.
That’s right, our company. We tend to leave titles behind, in Madison, when we head up north. I reserve the right to veto or redirect, but the group is empowered with real and actual decision-making power. Everyone on our team was invited; when two couldn’t make it (which makes sense, since they are part-time due to other obligations like college and kids), that worked out great — they will keep the office functions going while the rest are away. We’ll get their input, too, before and after we return.
So here’s my advice today: Invest in your people again. Create the backdrop for an extended think-a-thon and let them know that they truly are your most important and trusted consultants. Really listen to them — the people who know the most about your business and who have its best interests at heart, regardless of their "color," "type," or "style."
No "yes, buts’ about it.
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