Personalities in teams

A short introduction to the next series of my blog posts is required here… I am currently carrying out a research project as part of my dissertation and I intend to use this blog to document, critique and evolve my research project. Why? Mainly to give me a method of ‘note taking’ a bit more interesting than endless Word files, but also to see if it causes any food for thought among my social networks!

The choice of this post title is intentional… Many academic research projects have looked at teams, managing teams, team structure, team culture, stakeholder in teams, the importance of people within teams…… However, few studies (to my current knowledge in the early stage of research) evaluate the importance of personalities in teams.

A quick pit stop here – personalities will be an evolving concept over this research. My journey so far has led me to Carl Jung’s definition in his work Psychological Types. However, that is not the point of this post – I will build on his work in later posts but for now I just want to focus on introducing the following concept:

How important is a teams’ understanding of each others ‘personality’ in driving success?l
This concept remains broad… What do we mean by ‘understanding of’ and what measurement are we analysing ‘success’ against?… However the underlying aim is clear, do organisational teams take the time to truly understand the individuals working in their teams?

Yes, we have team meetings that decide who is best to carry out certain tasks but that is often based on competencies, project management to align skilled workers with the requirements at hand; but what about understanding that a certain individual is heavily introvert and can only work efficiently if they see a personal, inner benefit for them?

Or what about how different people process information? Does the individual rely heavily on the basic information provided or do they take it in but then seek to add meaning from their world knowledge? Do managers consider this when aligning their team to tasks? An individual may have the closest competencies but if they rely on basic information to proceed, and this information isn’t physically available at the stage of the project – they will struggle to perform…

Building on this – when the information is there, does the individual look at the logic and obvious sequence of events? Or do they prefer to evaluate the people and circumstances involved and derive further actions? Managers should consider this when deciding which individual is better at taking on short term, logical tasks against who is better to take on larger, newly innovative tasks.

Finally, does the individual prefer to get things decided and move on, or stay open to new information and options for the future? Again depending on the tasks a manager will either require immediate action to just get something done, or will seek a project to build and grow.

Some of you may have picked up on the 4 paragraphs above – each highlighting a key factor of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)! For those who didn’t follow MBTI is a ‘personality profiling’ tool that evaluates the individual and maps their personality against key metrics.

Now, my research focus should be (slightly) clearer… Carl Jung developed a ‘typology’ theory in his
psychological research that today has led to a ‘personality profile’, MBTI. My research will seek to evaluate this model and study its importance and use in organisations.

Essentially – I will seek to quantify the qualitative theory in the workplace and see how it improves a team development.

This is where I will finish for today, tying nicely the MBTI concepts with the definition of ‘personality’ mentioned earlier by Carl Jung; as it is Carl Jung’s work that inspired the foundation of MBTI (see what I did there?!)

Why Apple get it right. Telling the customer what they want vs. Offering what they want

Ok, for some people who know me well, the choice of title will come as a shock. Yes, Apple do something right… There, I’ve admitted it!

I am known to be very critical of Apple’s products, specifically the MacBook Pro… Over £1000 for a device with similar, if not inferior, specifications to its rivals?! That’s ridiculous. However, as I spend more and more time with my iPad (yes I’m writing this article on it…) and compare it to my Android (Google’s mobile operating system) ran HTC Hero smartphone I am slowly noticing why so many people love Apple products.

Of course, there is the inevitably segment of the techie consumer market that Apple can always count on, the fanboys. But beyond that, why do people like Apple?

The answer my friends is simple. They give the consumer what they want. Sure, you’d say that is the basic concept of marketing but where Apple make a difference is in their total product offering. As any half decent marketer would do, they study what the customer wants, what they need from the product and how they intend to use it.

HOWEVER, yeh another one of those “and this is a big however…”, they don’t stop there. They take these ideas and build a product that TELLS the customer what they want. They have built a platform that is sturdy, works and gives consumers a total product and then says “this is what I do, you want to use me this way.”

I am a big fan of Google and firmly believe in their ethos of everything open and sharing the worlds information. It is similar to that of an an equally giant player, Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook with the intention to expand one’s social experience, open my life and social interaction to let it grow. I therefore admire Google for opening its mobile platform to manufactures around the globe to customise it, make it their own and essentially, deliver a variety of products for a variety of people. The ability to customise Android, use home screen widgets rather than just thumbnails to countless apps to display my meetings, weather or messages all on my home screen without having to open a single app is admirable.

But more often than not, when a consumer is faced with that ability to customise, change or alter the total product they find themselves clueless. You don’t sell a car without lights or doors and say “here are the keys, feel free to chose your favourite doors and lights you find attractive”… you just don’t. You don’t see Starbucks saying “sure we’ll put some hot water and coffee in a cup but feel free to take it home and add vanilla or caramel yourself!” Your total product offering should put what the customer wants straight in their hands.

Ok, so you’ll argue “Google’s Android total product is a totally customisable platform, they are putting the ability to change and be open in your hands” but does a consumer necessarily understand that and know HOW to customise it or even want openness? There is one player in the Android game who is truly showing they understand this. HTC. The Taiwanese manufacturer is taking the customisable Android platform and transforming it in to a fabulous total product with HTC Sense and putting it in the customers hands saying “here, we’ve taken Android and designed it to work for you.”

As this article has gone on to be a critique of the Android and iOS platforms (something I could debate either way for hours) I will bring it back to what it was about. Apple are successful because they design a total product that works and tells the consumer what it does and tells them how to use it. With the rapid increase in smartphones and tablets appearing in the market, manufacturers must understand that the operating system is key, specifications, size and functionality are pretty much identical across them all; it is how your total product is presented and that it directly tells me how it will improve my life.

Hence, this article comes to the conclusion of: Design a product/service that is built on your consumers needs and requirements BUT deliver it to them in a way “this is what we offer, it will improve your life.” Don’t offer the customer what they want, TELL them what it is and GIVE it to them.

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Too much experience, potentially the most damaging thing to your career?

An essential part of any job description nowadays is that daunting part of the form, “work experience”. It seems bizarre for every employer to ask for previous experience as how do you get that initial experience without having had previous experience…

The answer is simple, get involved with anything! “work experience” isn’t about whether or not you’ve had a traditional “job” and where it was, it’s about what you’ve done with your time that allows you to demonstrate certain skills that will prove beneficial in the position you’re applying for. As a university student, I have had access to countless societies, sporting groups and even job opportunities; hence, I recommend to any student out there to join a society even if you don’t think it’s for you because a) you will gain skills and develop your existing skills and b) you may even end up liking it!

So surround yourself with new experiences, volunteer at events or within the local community… Don’t be afraid to talk to people and ask for responsibilities, take on tasks and make them your own for the benefit of all… That way you can build and build upon your personal development.

However, and it’s a big however… While it’s all good and well taking things on and getting involved with everything happening around you, it’s important to remember what you’re aiming for and to focus on the essential things you need to achieve them. I’m going to take my own, personal example to demonstrate this… As a first year student aware of the whole “first year grades don’t count for your degree” (footnote: that is total rubbish as employers DO care about that) I got myself involved left, right and centre with student societies, courses responsibilities, my students’ union and media. I personally thrive when running around doing a million things with lots of responsibility and getting things done without taking no as an answer, therefore it made sense for me to take on all these stressful jobs and positions. However, come exam time and coursework submission, I was stranded… Having attended lectures, I never really sat and listened to, or more importantly questioned, what I was being told; so when it came to coursework and exams I flopped, I now find myself on a first year predicted grade of 2:2 which is not what I wanted from my degree and is therefore preventing me from gaining the positions I worked so hard on gaining the “work experience” for.

This year has seen me made some difficult choices, I’ve stepped down from a position I felt right for me and was looking forward to making my own and delivering my best. When appointed as Assistant Editor for the student newspaper at university my mind flowed with ideas and ambitions of how I’d take the paper forward both in print and online. I was paired up with the most dynamic and strong hearted partner and we were a guaranteed success. Unfortunately though I couldn’t deliver the time and dedication the position required and I ended up letting down the people who depended on me.

I suppose the point I’m trying to make is that I’m gutted I had to give up this amazing, important opportunity that would absolutely shine on my CV under “work experience” but since I gave up the responsibility I am now on track for a first class degree and I’ve built on my skills through smaller positions such as working for the students’ union in other ways and remaining part of societies.

Some times it’s important to say “no” to taking on too much and focusing on what’s important. I worked hard to get in to a top university to gain a top class degree and I’m not going to throw that away for anything. Giving yourself time for you is also important, I thought doing a million things for different people would bring the best out in me but I’ve now found that stopping and looking and what’s important is key to obtaining what you truly desire. Do I regret leaving that position? Definitely. Am I glad I’m back on track for a first class degree? Oh yes!

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Twitter… To open or to close… That is the question.

It is undeniable that Twitter is an online, networking phenomenon. It breaks down the “friendship” boundaries of Facebook and just let’s you ‘follow’ anyone you want and build new relationships and networks.

This is the reason I love Twitter (as well as it’s another reason for me to play on my iPad!), the ability to simply tell people about my day and let them interact with it as they please. However, since joining the phenomena, I have doubts about it’s openness and availability to anyone. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of the underlying believes of Facebook and Google of openness to expand one’s social network. We can’t preach we’re willing to share our lives through social networks but then build a wall around it to restrict certain people.

To get to the point of this post, should my Twitter account be open or should I set it to private? I’d never considered the option of private for the reasons I’ve mentioned above, but now I’m employed and I know my colleagues/employer is on Twitter and I can’t help but feel them breathing down my neck. Should I tweet this? Ok, my student job isn’t my life career and I don’t risk compromising much, but I like my job and I don’t want to lose it by slipping up on a tweet about a night out or choosing to watch TV all day instead of working. What about my current placement applications? Potential employers are no doubt typing my name in just to see what comes up, what about what they read? Also, the vast amount of “followers” I gain only a daily basis who have either never tweeted or only ever tweet “win your free iPad now” or, more often than not, “horny girls waiting for you here”, just makes me wonder, who’s actually behind this account? A desperate marketer or a disgusting sex addict?

So I leave the debate open to you now… Twitter, to open or not to open? My heart tells me keep it open to keep building your network, but my rational mind tells me protect your employability and privacy…

First Attempt At Blogging

Right… I guess it’s time to actually write an article relevant to something other than me setting up a website… So what should be my first topic of interest? World Cup analysis? Social criticism? A story about my childhood? Reality TV?

Alas, no. My first real article on my brand new, shiny blog is going to be about… My university build up… “BORING!” I hear you shout but should you chose to read more, you may learn something you didn’t know, or you might not who cares!…

University was always a big thing for me, having been in the same school from year 7 up until I finished my International Baccalaureate (yes I spelt that without auto-correct!) I had began to feel claustrophobic (ok I used spell check on that one!) As much as I love home, my family and friends I am the type of person who needs an adventure and new challenges, I felt that I’d done all I could living in France (yes I live there by the way) and that it was time for a new adventure.

So why Lancaster? It’s not exactly known as the “new adventure capital of the UK”. To be honest, I don’t know… My predicted grades weren’t that promising, and my university advisor recommended choosing “safe” options that didn’t require a high score on my IB. I however, knew myself and knew I was capable; I knew I didn’t want to spend 3/4 years at a university that wouldn’t provide me with the best degree possible. Hence I visited a few and Lancaster attracted me the most. Simple really.

Coming to university wasn’t so much about getting a degree and having fun for me, it was about rediscovering myself and exploring who I really am and what I want to achieve in life. (I know this is getting soppy, I’ll throw in some articles about drunk nights out/shenanigans later!) My degree choice was always evident to me, I’m a business character at heart and can’t deny that. When it came to choosing my college, I opened the brochure, read “Lonsdale – Party College” and had made my decision, after all university is about having a blast!

So there I was, university = chosen ; course = chosen; college = chosen… and it hit me… what next? I’d spent so long planning and deciding what I wanted from my university experience that I’d come to the point where it was all prepared and all that was left was to go and experience it! SHIT! So the day came to leave home in France and embark on what seemed the longest drive ever. With a pit stop at my Gran’s outside Birmigham, I reached my destination of Lancaster a day before official move-in. Mum and I explored Lancaster for the day and did the necessities like opening a bank account and *trying* to open a phone line (don’t get me started on that!). With this complete all that was left was to grab a good meal and get a night’s rest. After a nervous cooked breakfast at the hotel, the following morning was the perfect start to my uni experience, welcomed with “honk for Lonsdale” and my mum driving the wrong way around the car park leading by screams and shouts from standers-by, I had arrived.

My first step was to get out the car and already someone had walked over, to this day I still don’t remember who you are but thank you for taking me up to the porter’s lodge and getting me my room key! From there I had a key that didn’t work so met my first flat mate (later known as Jack.) Who was nice enough to open the front door for me whenever I brought my stuff up!

The rest, as they say, is history. I’d like to have gone into more detail but revision obliges and I’m not even sure anyone will read this… SO thanks for reading this far and watch this space for more! 😀

A.D.S