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It is often said that organisations are about people. If you do a Google search of “organisations are made up of people” and alter the search terms to only include verbatim results, you will see there are 281,000,000 results.

This is…

1) 15 times as many results than the phrase ‘Justin Bieber’ (that search wasn’t previously in my browsing history…honestly…it wasn’t)

2) Nearly twice as many separate results as kilometres between you and the sun

3) 1,965,034 times more results than the fastest speed ever recorded by a motorist on the M25 (143mph)

4) 80 times as many results as people served by McDonalds every day (yes, 3.5 million people visit McDonalds per day)




So to say that it is “often” commented is a bit of an understatement.

The tricky thing about people is they don’t always get on. Take a look here:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news. £20 says you find an example of people not getting on somewhere on there. (Actually no that’s not enough; let’s say £30). It’s unfortunate but that what people do sometimes.

You’d think it would be different in a fully functioning, professional, corporate team though. Not always.

People have different strengths and different weaknesses, different viewpoints and different ways of doing things. Although you should avoid confining people to certain personality-based boxes, it is crucial to understand that your colleagues will all work differently, and struggle accept that there are alternate ways of achieving the same result.

Talking of categorisation, Psychology Today once reported an organisational consultant’s experience in a large engineering firm that confirmed the notion that people are often considered to be a “type”:

Most employees wore plastic name tags with large capitalised letters after each name: William Jackson ENFP or Allison Barton INTJ. Turns out the company had every employee typed according to the beloved Myers-Briggs personality inventory. For the sake of efficiency, workers wore their personality descriptions as lapel pins. That way no one had to waste time figuring anyone else out”

I would be forever known as Dominic Smith INTJ. I wonder what my colleagues in that engineering firm might automatically think if they came across me in their meeting.

The important point to take away from this isn’t that people can be proved to be a certain cut and dry type, but that organisations always include a wide variety of both complementary and also conflicting people. If the whole of your team were INTJ types it most likely wouldn’t perform as effectively as if there were a mix.

Our blog very often returns to the leadership of Steve Jobs as an example, but he told a memorable story as a metaphor for team-working, about a man he knew as a boy and an old rock tumbler. It’s really worth a watch if you’ve got a couple of spare minutes:

That’s always been in my mind my metaphor for a team working really hard on something they’re passionate about. It’s that through the team, through that group of incredibly talented people bumping up against each other, having arguments, having fights sometimes, making some noise, and working together they polish each other and they polish the ideas, and what comes out are these really beautiful stones.”

Despite Jobs’ point that the best, most talented teams sometimes have fights, it is worth investigating why such conflicts happen. Dutch researchers recently studied over 70 management teams from eight European organisations to discover what the underlying socio-cultural factors are that affect a team’s success or failure. The results showed that 44% of the teams had at least one person who caused negative feeling and conflict between individuals that affected the team cohesion and performance.

As a method to redress these people’s negative impact on overall team performance three factors were identified:

– Frequent in-team communication

– Interdependent working

– High quality social exchanges

The take-away from this is that teams who effectively communicate are better able to respond to the effects of negative members. With the use of high-quality social exchanges, wherein team members approach others’ perspectives with understanding and compassion, and frequent communication to share team goals, interdependent working will foster innovation and efficiency. Leaders must devote time to building the emotional intelligence of their workforce in order to minimize the ‘damage’ caused by personality conflict.

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