Previous month:
October 2012
Next month:
December 2012

November 2012

The Superiority of Energy over Personality

We have long held that in terms of work performance it is far better to consider what motivates a person than to ask what is his or her personality type. As my friend Steve Jones likes to say, ‘Nobody goes to work on a Monday morning because of their personality type; they go because of their motivations – or because they have to. Motivation, as we have also long held, is a form of energy, and
that is why it is superior.

There are some ‘precision’ type jobs where, perhaps, using a personality profiling tool is an essential pre-requisite for selection: an RAF fighter pilot springs to mind. It requires a certain type person to do that kind of work successfully; but that said, even given that the personality is the right type
for that type of work, the personality profile won’t say whether the individual is going to be poor, good, excellent or outstanding at doing it; merely, that there is a fit. That, I suppose, is a start.

But the fact remains that personality tests and their psychometric offspring are used as if fit were enough to guarantee performance. Clearly, this is not the case as virtually millions of examples prove – people fit THE profile but are still pretty useless when it comes to performing at a high level. Banks are deeply into personality profiling – and look where their leadership took us!

The reason why measuring motivation is so much more effective is that it measures the energy that you bring to the encounter of work, and this energy is half the performance mix. Skill (and knowledge) is the other crucial factor.

That said, then, energy diagnostics such as Motivational Maps are going to be increasingly used and increasingly important over the next decade. They are providing a picture – quite literally in graphical form – of the individual’s flow and intensity, and this really is connected to performance, which leads to productivity, which finally culminates (unless the organisational strategy is completely wrong) in profits.

Yet there is another way in which tools like Motivational Maps are superior to personality and psychometric profiling. One very valid criticism of personality tools is the tendency to stereotype people. People, for example, find out that they are an extrovert, logical type, and then instead of building on that, and realising its limitations and potential problems, decide to use it as a justification for bad behaviour. They’ll say something like – when challenged – ‘Oh, that’s because
I’m a Red or an ESQY’ or whatever.

Further, the stereotyping is compounded by the fact that most of the personality positioning is on what I call a four-by-sixteen matrix. In other words there are four basic types of person, and each of the four has four sub-types, leading to a grand total of 16 types of individuals. So, to recap, some
6+billion people all fit into one of 16 categories. Hmm. Bit like astrology really – which has 12 – or 24 if we add the Chinese horoscope onto the Western one!

And here again is where tools like Motivational Maps have such a big advantage; for, if we ask how many ‘types’ are there we find there are nine types of motivators. But, each individual has all nine within them but in a different order. Thus the total number of combinations is 9!, which means (9x8x7x6x5x4x3x2x1) = 362,880. This is a staggering number of possible profiles, but this is not
even the limit because of the scoring system. Basically, the diagnostic range of scores is from 0 to 40. Thus, somebody with an identical rank order of 9 motivators but with a narrow range of say 8 points from the highest to the lowest would be a very different type from somebody with a range of say 30
points. And of course, there is the intermediate range of about 16-20 points to consider.

It could therefore be truly said that with three distinct ranges of scores the total number of possible combinations is at least 3x362,880 = 1,088,640. In short, over a million combinations of ‘type’ and possibly more. Now that is deeply reassuring – and certainly goes a long way to countering the tendency to stereotype – if only because there are so many possibilities!

Savvy leaders, recruitment and HR specialists are increasingly realising that the old personality and psychometric tests are limited at best, and positively misleading at worst. The world of work needs something better, something more aligned with true performance. That something is Motivational Maps – because energy really is superior to personality.


9 Top Tips to Tune Teams

Everyone who runs a business, or is in sport, or simply is involved with various types of charity or voluntary groups – hey, even who has a family! – wants to know how to tune a team and make the team more effective. So here are my nine top tips. I say tips but rules may be a better word. But before giving them to you we ought to ask a more profound question: namely, not how do we make superior teams, but why are teams important in the first place?

There are three compelling reasons why teams are important. First, because the acronym T.E.A.M. says so! This stands for Together Each Achieves More and therein lies the essence of teams: their synergy. A group of five people might have the arithmetic strength of 1+1+1+1+1, which is 5, but a team of five people has the geometrical strength of 1x2x3x4x5, which is 120! Teams vastly outperform groups.

Second, teams are important because you – yes, I mean you – are not immortal: you will die, or retire, or resign, or transfer, or at some point leave the group of which you are member. At that point who takes over? Who succeeds? Teams ensure some genuine form of succession planning, and thus secure a legacy to the work that you have done. That’s important isn’t it?

Finally, teams are important because, well, because they feel good. That’s right. When you survey the arc of your life and ask what were the great experiences, being in the office isn’t usually one of them. Falling in love is; family and friends are; and being part of a great team is always an unforgettable experience – we were there and for each other.

With this in mind then, we can review, briefly, my nine top tips to tune a team. Tip one: be more motivated than they are. People are crying out to be led and it is down to the team leader to do that leading – and the amount of energy, of motivation, that they bring to that task has an inordinate impact on the morale and attitudes of the team. Ultimately, the team’s motivation will fall below your own level, and if yours is persistently low, then the team is in trouble.

Two, repeat this mantra every time you encounter dysfunctional behaviour: ‘Excuse me, Sam, are we team or a group here?’ and keep doing it. They will be shocked, amazed and uncomprehending. Do not stay for an answer to the question, but as you hasten away mumble something like, ‘I thought we were supposed to be a team’. This will engender worry, doubt and uncertainty in the dysfunctional players; choose your moment to enlighten them.

And to do that, you need to – three – understand the difference between a team and a group and keep going on about it. A group is just that – a group. If the whole staff of Tescos entered your business premisses, then your group would still be just that – a group, only a bigger one! No, a team is very different: it has a reason, a mission or an objective; it is interdependent on each other; it believes in teams; and finally it is accountable to each other and to the wider organisation. Be clear about this.

Four, be also clear and understand that two words are mutually exclusive: these two words are ‘team’ and ‘hierarchy’. You’ll know that there’s too much hierarchy in your organisation when you find everyone agrees with your views and deference is the norm. Group-think beckons!

Five, we spoke of the team’s first defining quality: the reason, the mission or the objective. So, clarify the objective(s). For most people and groups work is an activity of which 80% or more is wasted time; buy-in to clear, specific objectives is the antidote to this waste and the foundation of strong team performance.

With that in mind, ensure time is spent negotiating roles. One good question is: ‘how do I contribute to the objective?’ And here’s an even better one for the superior team: ‘how can I contribute to the objective?’

Seven, ensure you oil the machine. This follows from tip six: a too rigid pursuit of objectives, of what I call the ‘content’, always leads to disintegration, as even the most powerful engine will burst apart if it is not oiled properly. Oiling, in team terms, is paying attention not just to the objectives but to
the process. A favourite question I have for senior teams is: ‘how do you interact with each other?’ The answer speaks volumes.

Eight: avoid blame and drive out fear. People will not give their best, or be creative, or solve pressing business problems, if they feel that making a mistake is going to have dire consequences. Blame is always destructive. Stop doing it.

Finally, tip nine: ensure accountability to the wider organisation. So far the tips have largely focused on getting the team in the right – the peak – condition to perform. But there is a danger: the silo effect, the fiefdom and empire building scenarios, wherein successful teams become detached from the wider organisation and exist to promote only themselves. This needs to be prevented at source by proper accountability controls and incentives.

Take these ideas and use them. You will find they have a major impact on your teams and so on your productivity and profitability.

The Works of Man and the Works of God

Often it is difficult, superficially, to distinguish between the works of man and the works of god. By god here I don’t necessarily mean – although I don’t exclude either – the God of religion or of a particular scripture; I mean the god whose presence we detect when we sense true inspiration and genuine creativity. And by the works of man I am not intending to be disparaging, because some of the works of man are truly wonderful; but what I mean is those works which seem specifically to derive from man’s ego, man’s calculation and man’s pride. Man here is being used in the sense of mankind, the human being.

This is especially true in works of art. There is so much in modern art that lacks beauty, lacks form, and lacks, even, any skill. It was Tom Stoppard who said: "Imagination without skill gives us modern art". This is so true of so much drab ‘abstract’ art. And it is true of so much contemporary poetry too. The essential task of poetry is to stir the feelings and to do this rhythm is crucial; and yet we see
and we read poem after poem hatched in the head, baked in the crossfire of some idea, and ending up as some intellectual and pretentious drivel that is simply prose cut up into lines. In all this there is an absence of beauty, of truth and fundamentally of spirit.

I came across a surprising and extreme example of this only the other month where I was least expecting to find it: in architecture.

We had gone to Lichfield to visit the birthplace of Dr Johnson, a great hero of mine, and while there attended Lichfield Cathedral. What a marvellous building – it oozed worship, reverence, and order in the service of God. Saints had clearly trod the stones too over the ages and there was an air of sanctity and spirituality pervading the building. Who ‘built’ the cathedral? It is not known and
obviously is not important – it wasn’t built to be a monument to man’s achievement, but a place to worship God. This, then, a much bigger concept.

For some obscure reason I had always thought I knew St Paul’s Cathedral in London. And in the sense in which I was born in London and had been taken there when I was about six, I did. But last month I realised I didn’t know St Paul’s at all and went to London to correct that omission. What a disappointment compared with Lichfield: here, truly, was a monument to man.

Yes, great building, Sir Christopher Wren - but where was the sanctity, the holiness, the sense of the presence of something beyond mere human beings? Everywhere the eye could see were monuments to war and warriors: the Duke of Wellington in prime position above and Nelson in the basement below. We learnt how people lose their lives fighting for their country, but in this case it seemed more about fighting for the empire, fighting for imperialism – it was cold and chilling.

True, the ascent up the stairs to the Whispering Gallery, the Stone Gallery and finally the Golden Gallery was impressive – but it was exactly that – impressive, not awesome, not holy, not sacred. No, something built to convey the grandeur and power of man, which was why so many grandees had obviously sought it as their final resting place.

If final proof for me were needed that this was a work of man rather than a work of divine inspiration, it would have been in the low key presence of John Donne, the great poet and preacher of the St Paul’s before the great Fire. That such a great and spiritual person should be so submerged under the noise of all the lieutenant generals that few people have ever heard of astounded me.

Thus it was that I was glad to have re-visited St Paul’s after all these years, and yes it was fine and impressive building. A monument to what man can do. But for me it was not a spiritual building: it was a work of man and not of God, and so not really inspirational.