Understanding how team members operate is the key to high-performance teamwork. But it can take some time (and painful trial and error) before you really know what makes each person tick. Through the work we do with managers and teams, we’ve developed a practical shortcut that helps people get to know each other quickly. It’s a simple and highly effective exercise we call, ‘This is me’. You can listen to our podcast episode here or continue reading below.
This exercise gives you valuable personal insights in a safe, deep and structured way. And by sharing it with fellow teammates, you’ll fast-track the learning curve and quickly get to grips with their style, needs and challenges. We first learned this approach from Abby Falik, CEO of Global Citizen, and have put together a template you can grab right here. So, let’s explore how it works.
Section #1: My style
The first section looks at personal style and begins with a prompt to note your three key strengths. (Remember, as we discussed in this post, a strength is a talent combined with skill, knowledge and experience.) Perhaps you can identify your strengths right off the bat. But if you haven’t articulated them before, this is an incredibly useful exercise. Examples of strengths include ‘the ability to coordinate many moving parts on a project’, or ‘data analysis’ or ‘good at teaching others at pace that works for them’.
Don’t hold back on this. If you’re reluctant to ‘claim’ your strengths you’re doing a disservice to yourself and your team.
An area of personal development
This question prompts you to reveal one area you’d like to grow and develop. A common response is learning how to deal with conflict in the workplace – something that happens often, but which many feel ill-equipped to deal with.
Three words people have used to describe me
Here, we ask you to think of three words others have used when describing you: one that’s positive, one that’s not so positive, and a third. Limiting yourself to just three can be tricky, but the process of narrowing them down can really make you think about your key traits and how others perceive you.
I learn best by
This is prompt generates a variety of responses that range from, I learn best by jumping in and getting my hands dirty to experience, reading or reflecting and so on. Have a good think about this one. It can be an interesting discovery.
Section #2: How to communicate with me
It’s important to understand there are different ways to communicate and some people prefer one way to another. Take introverts and extroverts for example. For some, the best way to communicate with is one-on-one and in person. For others, it may be via email, or over coffee. Other inclinations include often and early, by painting the big picture, by giving me the benefit first or starting with the bad news. The diversity of responses leads to more discussion and a deeper understanding of how best to approach and connect with the people you’re working with.
The best type of meeting for me
Unsurprisingly, when we ask this question, we hear a lot of people say, the best type of meeting for me is short and to the point. But for others, the best type of meeting may be where a decision is being made, or where there’s rich discussion and everybody gets to share and voice their opinions. These answers can help you shape future meetings to ensure they’re effective and leave members with a feeling of energy and accomplishment.
The best way to solve a problem with me
We face problems on a daily basis, but approaches to solving them differ from person to person. Some people prefer doing it together, while others prefer going it alone. Some need all information up front, or need to know the result you're after. Some may need time to process, while others need to agree on an approach now. Problems are always an opportunity to learn and grow. A deeper understanding of each other’s preferences and processes helps people smooth the way for more effective problem-solving.
Section #3: What I value
To define your work values, think about the things that are most important for you to have at work. Examples might include creative freedom, integrity and work-life balance. Your values are the things you need to feel fulfilled and satisfied at work.
The thing I like most about my role
What you might like most about your role is the freedoms it affords you, or the fact that you get to meet a variety of different stakeholders in the organisation. For some it might be meaningful work that can be seen to have impact on a team or organisation or the community in general. (Note: you could swap the word ‘role’ for ‘career’ or ‘organisation’ to generate a slightly different response.)
What energises me?
Responses to this question reveal what motivates people and keeps them going throughout the day. For some people, it’s a team environment. For others, it may be working to solve a really juicy problem. The different things that drive people forward can be quite varied so this is an interesting one to discuss.
What I don't have patience for
This prompt digs deep into what frustrates people. For some, it might be office politics; for others, it might be gossiping or red tape. I don't have patience for people withholding important information or not following through, not having integrity, people who are disrespectful, people who keep talking in meetings, people who keep interrupting me... What ticks off your teammates can be a really valuable topic to touch on!
How would you describe your personality? Are you optimistic, extroverted, introverted, reflective? If you’ve done any personality profiling like Myer's Briggs, Clarity4D or LSI, this is an opportunity to use what you discovered. You might find someone else in your team has done a similar test or has a similar profile, in which case you've got something in common that could create more discussion.
Section #4: How to help and support me
Where or how do you work best? You might prefer somewhere that’s full of hustle and bustle. Or perhaps you like the peace and quiet of working solo. Some people are driven by deadlines or they operate better with structure while others prefer having time and flexibility to nut out a situation. Your best work might come from a combination of scenarios such as by yourself with the option of calling on others for support if need be. Think about what works best for you.
What people misunderstand about me
This is an opportunity to set the record straight about situations where people may have got the wrong idea. For example, for those with a preference for introversion, it might seem to others that you’re disengaged or not contributing when you look down or away during a conversation. In actual fact, you’re really trying to listen to every word without any extra sensory input. The opposite might apply to extraverts who, in some cases, are mistaken for being overbearing, over the top and interrupting when really, they’re just passionate and trying to agree and build on the speaker's’ ideas. This kind of insight can really turn things around where misjudgements are being made.
Under stress I look like
People respond very differently under stress. Some disengage by going into their cave or zoning out. Others become very business-like, matter-of-fact and nit-picky. People can become overly cynical; others over emotional. When we know what to look out for in each other’s stress responses, we can check-in to make sure they’re going okay. (We can also ensure we don’t take their behaviour personally or misinterpret it the wrong way). This is an important one for maintaining wellbeing within the team.
A deeper understanding of each other’s personality, needs and behaviours can bring real and lasting benefits to your team. This template doesn’t take long to complete, there are no right and wrongs and every answer is valuable. Whether you’re a new manager working with an existing team or part of an entirely new team or project, this exercise is very simple and very powerful. It can be used as part of your development plan and everyone will feel the benefits of having a realistic picture of the people they’re working with. Or, if your team needs some revitalising, it’s a great team building activity that’s fun and effective. You’ll find the results demonstrate an interesting diversity and bring each team member to a deeper understanding of themselves and others.
We’d love to know how you go how you go with this exercise so please give us some feedback.
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