There was a time (2006) where team dynamics and personality profiling was all the rage. Every project or team would go through a process of discussing and then planning out what they thought a ‘high performing team’ would look like to them and accordingly, they would have a look at the members of the team and identify what everyone was like and what the team could do to improve individuals and the team.
Over the past decade, this has fallen out of favour for a range of reasons (not in any order and very much according to me).
- Everyone wants to think they are a special snowflake and that you can’t ‘define’ who someone is with a few questions (like everything else, probably the ‘fault’ of millennials)
- In 2018, the need for much more wide ranging teams from designers to testers; a team in Mumbai and 4 in Edinburgh, Sydney and London, the need for diverse thought and engagement from each part of the project lifecycle. Teams are wider, diverse, and not sat next to each other and more temporary.
- At the same time, projects are shorter, budgets are constrained and you need to get people off of their phones long enough to go through the process.
Rather perversely though, these reasons are exactly why trying to understand the people in your team is more important today than ever before. Rather than worrying about the accuracy of the output, I would actually argue that the process of trying to understand what people are like and attempting to identify what’s important (and the gaps), is worth the attempt. Putting some structure around that conversation helps to make it more relevant and effective. Just by doing it, you get some value regardless of the method.
Therefore, I have developed a tool suitable for Buzzfeed millennials and cynical 30-40 somethings who remember the 90’s: The Friends HPT Model.
The secret to a high performing team (kind of) is remarkably similar to that of creating a successful sitcom. You put a range of interesting and varied characters in a series of challenging situations, add some humour, some heightened emotion and a range of annoying and difficult side characters (clients) and off you go. This craft was mastered in the 1990’s by the TV show ‘Friends’ so therefore, stands as the benchmark for assessment.
On your next team meeting, sit your team down with a coffee at Central Perk and do the following.
First, decide which character which member of the team you are.
Monica – competitive, results orientated and highly detailed in both approach and assessment. Broadly risk adverse but will fight to the last to achieve success. Inspires fear and hard work.
Joey – perhaps not the smartest but certainly knows the most people, fiercely loyal and accidentally successful. Doesn’t stick to one thing for long but always has belief. Can charm clients and team mates both and will have some obvious focus on ensuring team well- being ‘how you doing…’
Phoebe – way out on the fringe, has wild ideas ranging from impossible to improbable, is happy to have a go at anything and brings an entirely different perspective. Has an unusually tough streak occasionally if people step out of line. Sees the world in a different way.
Chandler – analytical and thoughtful, sees problems before they happen. Brings humour and fun to all things, sticks to hard tasks when required and supports his team mates. Has an introspective and neurotic outlook. Doesn’t have the client engagement skills of Joey but when a client likes him, they really like him.
Rachel – polished and looks the part, is a complete disaster in an area which is of no interest to her but when she gets something she likes, is unstoppable and successful. Is happy to make big changes if she thinks they are the right thing to do.
Ross – hugely passionate and knowledgeable about his subject. Not the best at making decisions but will stick to it regardless. Keeps a little outside the rest of the group but this brings perspective. Can be pedantic and frustrating
Discuss….. if you have 5 Monicas, what does that mean. Are you missing a Chandler? Does that matter?
Now imagine yourself floating above the ‘Friends’ with a remit to provide feedback to each about how to improve their performance. Consider also how the combinations work and think about the situations which work best for each person.
For example; there’s a client sales meeting for a new opportunity. Who do you send?
- Phoebe and Joey – it all likelihood, a chaotic rambling presentation with offbeat and unstructured content. Chandler and Monica – equal parts overpowering and pessimistic
My pick: Ross and Rachel – Rachel does the talking, Ross is brought in to provide SME material where required. If available Joey to do the follow-up.
Or; there’s a hard deadline and a disastrous state of a current deliverable
- Joey and Phoebe – might not see the problem and have the desire to see it done. Might decide to escape and hope for the best. Ross and Rachel – might focus too much on the detail or struggle with the stress
My pick: Monica and Chandler – Monica will have the team drilled and focussed (although possibly furious and bored). Chandler once engaged will power through whatever it takes to get it done.
Or any other work situation you can think of.
If you would like a second coffee, you could also think about the following
- Pick a peripheral character (who might be like one of your clients); how do the Friends deal with them, what are they like and what drives them. How do you approach the situation?
- What does success look like for each of the characters and the group as a whole?
- How does each character deal with stress situations? Monica gets obsessed with something specific (cooking, cleaning etc), Rachel runs away? Joey eats Pizza?
- What would you say to each of the characters to get them interested in something? Is it a bribe, an intellectual interest, a threat?
What does this all mean?
- It doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect or if you are a mix of different types; what’s important is the introspection you have on yourself and the team. Ultimately, it is to understand that people are different and to appreciate that what drives them is different. The more you understand, the better you can be as a manager and as a team.
- Remove the specifics; it’s easier to talk about ‘types’ or third parties than it is to talk about individuals. You can have a fun conversation about what Chandler might do rather than talking about ‘Jacqui the OD stream lead in your team’. The fact that Jacqui ‘is a total Chandler’ still allows for a disconnect which can support a richer conversation.
- Make it fun; as an administrative exercise, you can lose some the value if people see it as a chore. By adding some amusement to the process, people are likely to add more to the conversation (although it is important to say that this isn’t the case for everyone.)
The importance to think about team dynamics and personalities has never gone away even if the tools have slipped out of fashion a bit. Why not consider taking a bit of time in you team to have a conversation; use your ‘Friends’.
PS Here’s the big problem with the above; it requires a reasonably good understanding of the TV Programme ‘Friends’ which isn’t necessarily the case for everyone in your team. Your options then are to allow them time off to review the box set on Netflix, to find a common example otherwise or even better; to select a tool created already by much smarter people than me, often following academic research and considerable effort. Here are some classics for you to Google.
Belbin – the old faithful team dynamics assessment tool.
Myers-Briggs – another classic giving you a personality type and a great lecture behind it. (has a cost implication and ideally someone trained to delivered the lecture and the background) – see also 16PF
Johari Window – great for supporting feedback and for thinking about areas for development
The colours one – super simple identification of type against words that best describe you
There are lots of other examples, including from your own company.
PPS – if you determine that Game of Thrones would be a better example; i.e. everyone wants to kill each other and there’s no trust anywhere. It might be worth considering a wider culture assessment