4 Steps to Optimize Your Team’s Performance

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The nature of our job as a Project Manager requires us to interact with different types of people. Accordingly, we need the ability to speak multiple languages. You need to be fluent in “Sales”, “Finance”, “Marketing”, “Technical”, and “Operations” to name just a few of the languages. Each group has their own jargon, personality and mindset. Then, within each group are dozens of personalities and attitudes that we need to be able to effectively navigate to get our projects done.

Some of these conversations go swimmingly well. No bumps along the way and smooth sailing. It’s as if you have something in common with the person from the moment they open their mouth. You enjoy working with them and the time just flies by!

And then there’s the other guy…

You don’t know what it is, but you cringe every time he opens his mouth. The conversation comes to a grinding halt and there may even be a little bit of “rolling of the eyes”. You and this person are like oil and water and you don’t know why. You’re not a jerk. You get along just fine with other people. This guys not a jerk. He gets along just fine with other people. So what’s the problem?

It may all come down to Thinking Style. You may just see the world very differently than this person. Your thinking styles are not in alignment and trying to make them work together is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. But, all is not lost. There are some things you can do to come more in alignment and optimize your relationship and performance from this person.

Step 1 – Recognize People Have Different Thinking Styles

Admitting that people have different thinking styles is the first step on the road toward recovery. There are 8 Ways of Thinking® that most people gravitate toward. The following shows these 8 ways of thinking and how you can identify them:

Thinking Style   Possible Strengths Possible Weakness
  • Goes outside the box
  • Offers numerous ideas
  • Becomes unrealistic
  • Doesn’t follow through with ideas
  • Makes sound decisions
  • Listens and observes well
  • Becomes overwhelmed and indecisive
  • Micromanages others
  • Eliminates unrealistic expectations
  • Identifies Risks and Trouble Spots
  • Hurts morale
  • Focuses solely on problems
  • Motivates a Team
  • Gets Things Done
  • Causes Chaos
  • Goes Too Far
  • Listens and observes well
  • Offers wise advice
  • Resists his perceptions
  • Becomes emotionally biased
  • Stabilizes Agitated Team Members
  • Builds Team Cohesion
  • Stops conflict that is healthy
  • Over-concerns himself with the team
  • Motivates the team
  • Perceives the glass as half-full
  • Avoids conflict
  • Overlooks the downside
  • Thinks Quickly
  • Acts Decisively
  • Becomes too reactive
  • Steps on toes

Each team member may have smatterings of all of the above, but it is usually pretty easy to recognize the dominant thinking style by a person’s actions.

Step 2 – Recognize You Have a Different Thinking Style

The second step is to realize that you have a different thinking style. We all like to think that we’re comprehensive and well-rounded in the way we think, however, we also have a bias toward a particular Thinking Style. Don’t believe me? At your next PMI meeting take a look around at your colleagues. More often than not the majority of attendees will fall into the Analytical, Assertive, and Resolute Thinking styles.

The problem comes into play when we go head-to-head with team members who may be Pessimistic (we’ll never get it done), Altruistic (everything will be just fine…although you know it won’t), or sometimes even Optimistic (what could possibly go wrong?).

So, they may not be jerks after all. They just may see the world different than you and that’s just fine.

Step 3 – Play to Their Strengths

Rather than focus on what this person can’t, or isn’t able to do…focus on what they can do and what comes natural to them. Throw the Intuitive Thinker into a politically charged situation or environment and let them quickly develop a gut feeling for what needs to be done to move forward. Put the Inventive Thinker on the tough problem that nobody has been able to figure out and tell them not to come back to you until they have a solution.

People do well at what they like doing. Create an environment where this is possible.

Step 4 – Shore Up Their Weaknesses

If you saw someone trying to lift a heavy box but couldn’t do it because they weren’t strong enough, what would you do? You’d help them out. The same principle applies to someone who is mentally trying to work through a problem or issue but having trouble getting the job done. It’s up to you as a Project Manager to help them out. Maybe it’s just a matter of asking them questions to guide them to the right answer, or pairing them up with another team member who has a complementary thinking style so they can bring closure to whatever is troubling them.

Don’t let people struggle unnecessarily. Identify those areas where they may be weak and build them up.

Think about Thinking

It’s your responsibility as a Project Manager to recognize the dynamics and thinking styles that go on within the team. The rest of the group is too heads down on the task at hand to “think about thinking”. Your role as coordinator, orchestrator, and leader of the project gives you the perfect vantage point to help others optimize their performance potential.

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