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Appreciating difference

During a chat with one of my fellow coaches this week, he asked me what my favourite exercise was when building high performance teams. I have many but one that came to mind is one I use when introducing teams to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). MBTI is a great way of introducing people to the idea that people have different strengths and need different things to perform at their best.

After outlining the principles behind this model and feeding back people’s individual profiles, we break the team into groups around the “core” of their reported type. The “core” focuses on whether people focus on the big picture or detail and whether they base decisions on logic or values. If you are not familiar with this approach, there are masses of information on the internet.

In their groups, the team members are tasked with answering a couple of questions:

• What do you need in order to perform at your best?

• What would we need to do to ensure you perform at your worst?

We get the groups to record their ideas on a flipchart and then ask the groups to put their output on the wall of the room and take a look at what the other groups have come up with.

What I really like is that after a few minutes silence, their tends to be a collective audible “bugger me!” or a similar response.

This response is the sudden realisation that what one person needs to perform is what another person finds exactly the opposite. One that pretty much always comes up is that one person’s buzzy, invigorating office environment is another person’s version of hell.

This realisation leads to a rich discussion not only around the idea that people need different things but that it’s easy to imagine everybody needs the same thing.

It is a simple exercise, but the learning has far-reaching effects.

That’s why it’s one of my favourite exercises.

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