One of the great things about diversity is that you get the benefits of different cultural viewpoints into your organization. People from different regions and countries approach problems differently. You and your team get exposed to different work styles, work ethics, and operational mindsets. This exposure will make you more appreciative of the different views your own customers have.
The problem with diversity is that highly diverse teams are more difficult to merge into a single organizational culture. The features of the organizational structure you are trying to build may be at odds with how some of your individuals approach productivity. Merging their cultural background into your team culture is hard but worthwhile.
Diversity is an asset, even when it makes some things more difficult. It is something to be embraced. It also means that you may need to spend more time ensuring that your culture is designed to embrace that diversity.
There’s a fine line required for team chemistry when balancing short-term and long-term success. Short-term success is driven by concrete and measurable actions. You can achieve short-term success through individual heroics. Long-term success is dependent upon a strong team.
Over any defined period of time, you can do everything you want by trusting in a few key individuals. You can hand things off to them and just let them do their thing. Individuals within the framework are usually going to color outside the lines and generally do things with a single-minded focus on the outcome.
When planning for the long-term, heroics go against the team grain. You need to have confidence across the board for achieving long-term stability and success. Any given individual contributor could leave which would throw the balance out of alignment. A team-oriented view means that you likely will not have the same degree of peak performance, but you will also be managed against troughs. Consistency becomes the key.
As a manager, it’s your job to balance these needs. Knowing when to go back and forth between the worlds is how you achieve peak performance. Ultimately, if the team collectively knows what you are trying to achieve they will help with the balancing act.
No one is ever wrong 100% of the time. No one is ever right 100% of the time. There is no one with the wisdom and knowledge of the whole world. It is our differences that make us better.
You will never be the best by having a team full of clones. When everyone thinks the same way, you have more gaps than you can plan for. Falling into the trap of thinking that there is only one right way is the quickest and easiest way to end up wrong.
Different cultures have different generic solutions to basic problems. None of those solutions is going to be better or worse generally. But the more options you know how to use, the better you can respond to varying situations.
If you want to be great at real estate, you need to understand the smallest aspects of real estate. What does this mean?
- To understand location, you need to understand the people.
- To understand workplace, you need to understand how a single person works.
- To understand a lease, you need to understand accounting.
- To understand a recommendation, you need to understand the incentives.
It’s not often that people want to understand the lowly workstation. That little place where someone shows up to do work. Often times the discussion devolves into one about seniority and the size/location reflecting respect.
It usually starts with productivity – namely, what features are required for a person to be productive? But productivity is that elusive topic that has never received a good definition. No one can adequately put together a realistic way of figuring this out.
If you don’t understand how the workstation will be used, you’ll never be able to figure out the layout and size to put into a building. If you don’t understand how employees utilize space, you’ll never know how many you need for your employees. If you don’t understand how the workstation fits with corporate culture, you’ll inadvertently lead to unexpected change.
Who needs to understand these component elements? Anyone that is involved in the build-out of new space. If the transaction manager doesn’t understand, they will get the wrong amount of space. If the workplace designer doesn’t understand, they’ll design the wrong office. If the business leads don’t understand, they can’t manage change to their teams.
Delegation is often considered one of the signs of a good manager and leader. Ensuring that large tasks have shared delivery is often the only way to get things done.
But delegation has a dark side. Some people interpret the above paragraph as meaning that managers are supposed to only delegate and not own things themselves. This is where things become dangerous because instead of augmenting delivery capability, it removes that manager’s own delivery capacity.
The idea of player-coach is one I strongly endorse. Managers got to the role they are in now because they were good at something more than just overseeing the work of others. They received their promotions by proving they could do the job and understand it. Why would you then remove that from the team’s delivery capability?
Dangerous delegation is most obvious in a couple of key cases:
- Managers who own a process but delegate the outcomes to teams outside of their control. Processes cannot be separated from delivery.
- Managers who delegate everything to their team and do not personally own any outcomes. This behavior encourages teams to think that tasks aren’t actually important because otherwise, their manager would have a role.
- Managers who delegate outside of their team and use their team to only oversee the work of others. Similar to the ones above because ownership of outcomes is important to performance.
Do your best to not encourage dangerous delegation. It may look appropriate on the surface but leads to bureaucracy, lack of ownership and destruction of innovative culture.
Branding is important to getting things done. Personal brands tell you about the nature of the people you are dealing with and how to get things done working with them. Product brands tell you the safety and risk associated with a procurement activity if something were to go wrong. Corporate brands tell you about the team and their goals, objectives and working styles.
Branding can, to a large degree, also be thought of as culture. The Google brand and culture often go hand-in-hand. Same for Apple and Microsoft. Look at the list of best companies to work for and you also encounter many of the best companies to hire.
The brand of your team will let people know when you will be easy or difficult to work with. It will tell them what kinds of projects you will endorse to move forward and which you will push back on. It will tell them what work is prioritized and which is delayed. Ensuring that this branding is clear both internally to your team and externally to your customers is important.
Externally, if you are sending conflicting messages about the type of work you do then you will constantly be stuck dealing with inefficient pre-planning sessions to get people to the right starting point. You will also constantly receive project requests that don’t meet your requirements that you have to send back. This will only lead to wasted time and organizational frustration.
Internally, if your team doesn’t understand the types of projects they are supposed to endorse they can’t be educating and training their customers. Also, at the end of the year, their actions will not have aligned with the team objectives leading to a lesser review or lost personal opportunities.
Branding and culture are ultimately about communication. If you are clear, direct and concise you will be able to position you and your team for increased success. If you leave things open to interpretation life will get a lot messier.
I was in a workshop recently where the word neighborhood was used a lot. The context was the workplace and how to promote cross-team collaboration. The solution our workplace partner had given us were neighborhoods.
There is nothing particularly unique about thinking of the workplace as a series of adjoined neighborhoods. This thinking goes back a long way and doesn’t even need to be tied in with a modern, open workplan. What got me really thinking about it though was the discussion of it from a colleague perspective and not just a seat layout. The workplace as neighborhood allows for us to think differently about how people work within an office.
I’m going to own up that I’m a bit behind on the most recent thinking on this topic so it’s possible that many in the industry and sitting there laughing about how far behind I am. But I’m guessing there is a large group that, like me, may not have been exposed to this yet. So for their (and my own) benefit I’m going to keep going.
The beauty of neighborhoods (geographically speaking) is that they don’t have firm edges. Maybe today they are bounded by a particular street but the reality is that tomorrow the neighborhood may have crossed over culturally. Neighborhoods are collective groups of people that are located together geographically which causes them to experience many shared events, allowing them to think in similar patterns. Some neighborhoods are big and diverse. Others are small and personal.
In the workplace, the exact same is true. Some groups of coworkers will grow and include 20 or more people that enjoy a shared drink after work every week with an interchanging group of people that are as much socially connected as professionally. Other neighborhoods may only be 2 people that happen to keep the systems on and running and their introverted natures keep them from branching out into something bigger.
Setting up the workplace to encourage soft boundaries that are easily crossed and easily can quickly and efficiently promote a one team mentality. This serves to more readily allow people from different groups to work directly together but also to allow the many micro-cultures in the office to move closer to a single norm.