Opposite Minds – Good, Bad, or Ugly?


They say opposites attract in romance.  Is the same true at the workplace?  Some believe a team with similarities, a common perspective, and like minds works best.  That is far from a fully enlightened view, and do not fall into that trap.


Team Diversity & Human Understanding

Allow me to define team diversity as a team with diverse thinking preferences and behaviors.  Each team needs an idea, concept, mission, or problem to solve.  Can that make a difference on its own?  Without an analytical mind to determine its efficacy and value, a “doer” to implement, or a social thinker to help “sell” the idea, the idea remains untapped, or worse – fails outright.

Frequently, team members from these different preferences rage against these differences.  The analytical types may not take social thinkers seriously, likely focus on technical gaps in others, and don’t always respect the importance of people in the solution.  Social thinkers may resist analytical thinkers as not sensitive to the people side and themselves struggle to identify optimal solutions.  Conceptual thinkers may just have no energy to implement, and “doers” often need direction.

Behaviorally, a team must have a good mix as well.  Can you imagine a team with all assertive leaders?  They would pull and push and tug at each other for superiority – making control the goal versus the project itself.  Or a team with all followers?  How would they make decisions?  Also, who is the best to present?  The one that likes to talk and express, or the one that prefers quiet reflection?  In a situation that requires innovation, should that team be comprised of those uncomfortable with change, or those that are more at home with newness?

Realizing this, effective teams value these differences and roles, and leverage them within the project.  Rather than devalue differences, team members must embrace them as fundamental to success.  This is not to say every effective team must ensure that each preference is represented.  Rather, the make-up of the team and leadership approach should be tailored to the specific need with this awareness in mind.

Those that devalue these differences are easily spotted.  They’re the ones that gossip, complain, undermine, and have over-exaggerated impressions of self-importance.  They’re the ones that think everyone should be like them.  They hold team effectiveness back.  They stifle cultural growth.  They spell the end of team cohesion and effectiveness.  Some can change, many cannot.  Leaders striving for an effective culture must address these cancers before they spread.

Commensurate with this appreciation for thinking and behavioral preferences, thus, is improved understanding and respect for each individual.  Each area of preference represents a unique dimension of intelligence – no better, no worse than the others.  Differences are not weaknesses.  Once this is understood, these different preferences and abilities can be respected, and then valued.  It is then, and only then, that leaders and team members tap into the full potential of the team.

A wonderful by-product of this awareness is respect and appreciation for the individual as a human being.  Suddenly, sales executives respect the accounting clerk, and organizations deeply value those without great ideas, but who are stellar at implementation (a very rare, but vital skill – closely linked to success).  People reach out and collaborate, and outcomes become more effective.

I once had the misfortune of working for a boss that was thrown into a situation that was not natural to him.  He self-identified his disdain for human sensitivities, was uncomfortable with communication, overly asserted his will, and refused to be flexible to different points of view.  It was just the way he was wired – reflective of his thinking and behavioral preferences.  Can you imagine the impact his style had on organizational culture, directional clarity, team buy-in, success, and team inspiration?  Yet, properly used, these are not weaknesses, just different strengths.  An effective leader could realize the value these preferences can offer.  Someone with this style could be ideally suited for highly technical work that was positioned as an individual contributor – and odds are, he’d thrive in a role that did not require leadership or interpersonal skill.

I would then offer that a culture leveraging diversity and respecting individual human differences sets itself up for more success.  The reach and application of this premise extends beyond building work teams, to motivating high performers, to employee fulfillment, to understanding how different clients define success, to effectively selling to different audiences, to implementation success, to discovering innovations that actually work, and beyond.

With all this at stake, lead the way.  Your team and your business await….


Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

Why You Should Care About Sustainability


Climate change.  We hear about this topic almost daily.  China’s smog, oil spills, and melting ice caps gain most of the headlines.  But how does society change from the ground up?  What does it mean to business?  These issues are irrefutably tied.

Enter the Sustainability movement.  People + Planet + Profit best defines the full Sustainability picture.  It is not simply about “green” – but lasting solutions for the good of all concerned, so we can all, well, last.  A lasting planet, lasting people, and businesses that last too.

Recycle_PhotoBefore we speak to the meaning for business, we must understand the role of government.  Until now, the movement has been a loose cadre of industry rules, regulations, and marketing.  It is here that the Federal Government has an opportunity to lead.  As the single largest buyer of goods and services, Uncle Sam’s purchasing rules will act as a trigger – leading private industry, not by outward regulation and Congress, but in partnership with business and academia.  This is a unique opportunity for the purchasing power of the Federal Government to establish rules for itself, not directly affecting purchasing rules outside of government, that will at the same time be so dominate and impactful as to drive compliance and adoption by the business world.  When achieved (sooner than you think), the rating system and framework will drive consistency, comparability, and transparency.

This is despite the fact that the private sector is generally ahead in this area, but disparate, fractured, and not fully mainstream.  As such, maintaining this course is not an effective path.  Only government has this tremendous leadership opportunity.

Societal evolution demands attention to this paradigm shift and will compel transparency in corporate America.  As evidenced by the open use of social media like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, younger citizens and future leaders have little expectation of privacy.  They instead prefer to participate in outcomes, and have begun to demand transparency in the business and government worlds.  Now they compel actual change.

Think about Apple in China, Pink Slime, Paula Deen, and Kony 2012.

This all represents business opportunity in the early adoption of this transparency in the way the broader sense of sustainability offers.  And those that don’t simply will not be trusted as business partners.

In other words, now is the time to build your organization in this light, and make it part of the organization’s fabric and brand.  It will eventually be expected – the ultimate pay me now or pay me later, with any opportunity to stand out as a brand leader lost without early movement.

Shedding the limits of the “green” premise, organizations should transform their own governance and business models.  They should do so with both step-level change and dynamic change to better align now, at this important stage, with sustainability as “Corporate Sustainability.”  They should do so in the practice of supporting their employees, customers, and the employees of vendor partners, our planet, and their profits by the cost savings and market acceptance sustainability authenticity will bring.  This new scorecard will eventually reward those that truly live it as an entity, and leave behind those that don’t – just as other monumental paradigm shifts have.

If your organization is one of the thousands supplying government, the future is much clearer and urgent.  The time for Sustainability is now – or risk business within that important segment.

For those leading this important shift in the business landscape, this means embracing the kind of existence implied by these new standards, making it a reflection of their identity and brand, not a point of compliance alone.  It must come from the head, the heart, and the wallet.

Learn more about Busniness & Sustainability at http://peopleandplanetandprofit.com.

Posted in Blog | Leave a comment