Dealing with dysfunction Featured

7:39pm EDT December 31, 2012
Dealing with dysfunction

Take a look at the demographic makeup of your staff. Chances are that you’ll notice a broader range of ages and backgrounds than you’ve ever experienced before. Your success is dependent on creating a culture that can get the most from your talent base because a happy workforce is a productive workforce. So how do you build a culture that is conducive to multiple mindsets?

At hfa, we’ve embraced the generational gap in our workplace by creating a collaborative culture that values contributions from multiple perspectives.

It’s essential to take into consideration the differing psyches of various generations: Baby boomers are work-centric, goal-oriented competitors who believe in long hours at the office to get the job done. Gen-Xers are more tech-savvy and adaptable — they value a strong work-life balance. Gen-Yers are even more tech-focused, collaborative and likely to blur the line between work and leisure time because they want to work at something for which they have true passion.

All are valid philosophies

The key to managing differences in mindsets is to understand that they are all valid, viable philosophies that can contribute to your business’s success.

Bringing disparate groups of talent together requires team dedication. The model that our company has adopted to drive teamwork is based on a book called “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni. The book describes five healthy functions, which form a pyramid that builds toward a results-based, productive environment rather than one that is activities-based and nonstrategic.

The five functions are trust, conflict, commitment, accountability and results.

The most important function is trust. Trust means team members believe in each other, both as people and as professionals. It’s a vulnerability-based trust that forms the foundation of any good team.

Conflict means healthy conflict — the ability to challenge one another in order to find new perspectives and unique solutions. Unhealthy, negative conflict is counterproductive and harmful to your team.

Once the team has gotten past conflict, all members align with the chosen course of action in the commitment stage. Differences are put aside for the good of the team.

Accountability is the act of taking ownership of one’s responsibilities and answering to the team when efforts fall short. An accountable team member will strive harder not to let the team down, resulting in higher quality work.

And finally, everything builds up to results. Establish a tangible goal and measure your efforts against whether that goal is met. A team that performs all five of these steps can expect to start seeing positive results.

Embrace differing talents

Another method we’ve found for fostering a collaborative culture is to embrace the different talents of each individual. “Strengths Finder 2.0,” a book by Tom Rath, stresses the importance of capitalizing on strengths rather than wasting energy trying to shore up weaknesses. It also contains an assessment test to identify an individual’s strengths.

By giving this assessment to our entire agency, we were able to use the results to group associates into teams based on complementary strengths. Furthermore, the information has been helpful in building trust between associates by allowing them to better understand each other’s motivations and preferences.

Finally, a collaborative culture must provide associates with outlets that can help bolster business. Our agency has teams such as our Future Team and Green Team that promote innovation among associates with a strong interest in technology and the environment by encouraging them to explore opportunities and trends to apply in our business.

We’ve also remodeled our offices to create a more collaborative workspace. Adding open gathering areas for informal meetings, for example, now allows associates to quickly exchange ideas and updates.

The secret to growth in the modern business environment is an idea as old as business itself: teamwork. Embracing the multiple mindsets and strengths of your workforce by fostering collaboration is a growth strategy that will pay dividends in any marketplace. ?

Matt McCallum is vice president/talent development at Hitchcock Fleming & Associates Inc. (hfa), a leading full-service marketing agency in Northeast Ohio, named as one of the Top Workplaces 2012 Northeast Ohio by The Cleveland Plain Dealer. McCallum is in the current class of Leadership Akron, is past president of Torchbearers, a leadership development organization for young professionals, and is a member of the Akron Art Museum’s marketing committee. Reach him at (330) 376-2111 or mmccallum@teamhfa.com.