Lions, Camels, Turtles, and Monkeys, Oh My! - Infinity Network Solutions

Many of you who read our newsletter may already be aware that we shut down most of our operation last month on a Friday afternoon to enable everyone from our team to get together and work ON our organization.  We had our leadership coach, Hardin Byers, from Heartland Leadership Group come in and lead us in a session around communication, teams and engagement.  I thought I would share my thoughts from the class and how we plan to leverage this kairos event in hopes that you might be able to use some of the teachings yourself.

First, we are big believers that understanding the communication style of each person we interact with, whether internal or external to our company, makes it easier to ensure effective communication can happen.  For a number of years we have put each candidate we consider hiring through a DISC test.  We keep the test results of everyone in the company in a common location and work to review and understand the results for each person.  The test has been great at a management level but is complicated and not very memorable which means that it can be hard sometimes to leverage the tool to get maximum results.  So we have decided to supplement DISC with another tool by Dr. Larry Little from his Make a Difference book where letters are replaced with animals.

Before we got to the discussion around Make a Difference (MAD) we started with a brief discussion around what makes a team successful.  Patrick Lencioni has written a number of books on this subject, Five Dysfunction of a Team and The Advantage being the ones we talked about.  Hardin did a great job addressing what makes a team function well or not.  The starting point of any effective relationship, team or one on one, is trust and to build trust you have to be able to effectively communicate.  When you start with trust you are able to have effective conflict which is absent personal fear because you trust someone.  When you have effective conflict you can get commitment to the direction/decisions that come out of the conflict.  Once you have commitment to the direction/decision people are willing to be accountable to their performance without fear.  And finally, when you are accountable to your performance you set aside your personal agendas so that you achieve the intended results.  So with this as the basis that we want to build effective relationships and teams we all agreed you have to start with communication.

As we started talking about communication styles Hardin did let us know that Dr. Little’s tool hasn’t been tested and validated like DISC and so many of the other tools out there but through their internal research they have been able to show that they are very effective in predicting a person’s communication style.  What that means for us is we will continue to use DISC as our primary tool and layer MAD on as an easier to understand and use tool.  When there are conflicts between the tools we will always review and discuss to ensure we end up with the best understanding.  So what are these animals that I was talking about?  Well they are the Leading Lion, the Competent Camel, the Tranquil Turtle and the Fun Loving Monkey.  Each person can have traits in one or more of these animal areas and there is no “right” mix for a person or position.  And the saying that many would say is a cliché, “It takes all kinds to build an effective team”.  In our team we have 9 Lions, 11 Camels, 5 Turtles and 1 Monkey as their primary or dominate animal.  Several of us have 2 very close animals for me I am a 10 Lion and a 9 Monkey.

So what does this all tell us?  Because each of us have glasses on that are colored by our perspective, we all start from the belief that everyone views the world as we do and that everyone views us as we do.  Once we all can accept that we can begin to take off our glasses and view the world as others do and ourselves as they do.  One of the exercise we did is to break up into groups by dominate animal and list out what we feel are our best traits.  Then we broke up again and took one of the other animals and listed the traits we saw as most troubling/hard to work with.  To some of our surprises the traits that we might love in ourselves are the ones that others find difficult about us.  So what we came away from that exercise with is that when we engage in communication we need to try and take others perspective into account.  So my desire to move quickly from gut feel, the lion in me, and get down to the party with a big group, the monkey in me, may not be the way everyone else wants things done.  I have been accused of banging on the shells of my turtles a little too much along with moving too fast with too few details for my camels and from time to time I am not as friendly as my monkey friends might like.  That was all hard to hear when you always perceived you were doing the right things in the right ways so everyone got the most out of efforts.

Now that we are all aware of our misperceptions and frames of reference the challenge will be adjusting to improve communication.  Now what I will say is we don’t all have to change all the time.  If we all adjusted at the same time we would end up on the opposite side of circle.  The trick will be to learn who should adjust and when.  From my point of view there will be times that I will need to push for the big thinking and overall direction, but then get out of the way so others can work on the details and ensure ultimate success.  I should also be prepared for some of our team members to need more time to review ideas and efforts and then listen when they want to provide feedback because when they are ready they really have wise things to say that will improve the effort.  Then from time to time those of us with a little monkey in us can make sure we have fun and don’t forget all work and no play makes for very a cranky team.  At the end of the day a more aware team will communicate better and avoid more of the 5 dysfunction of a team than those that don’t see the power of effective communication.

At the beginning of this article I mentioned the term kairos, which is one of two terms the Greeks used to describe time, which means an event of significance where you Observe, Consider, Discuss, Plan, Account and Act.  The second being chronos which is the standard linear time as we normally consider it.  The goal of any training like this is to ensure significance value comes from it and it not just be a dot on the linear time continuum.  As you may now realize this write up is part of my efforts to Observe, Consider and Discuss the event.  With the Plan, Account and Act coming soon for our team.  So we can serve each other and our clients with better communication and effective teams.

So do your teams work effectively without personal agendas and fear?  If not why wouldn’t you want to.  I would love to hear from any of you that are interested in hearing more about this topic or maybe have suggestions about how we can achieve better, faster results.  OK that was a little too much Lion wasn’t it?  But I truly welcome anyone interested in discussion as it will only help me ensure we really did have a kairos event.