AT some point in our career we could end up working as part of a less than harmonious team, where getting through a normal work day can feel like dragging yourself through a thick, mud-laden bog.
Our job is hard enough without in-house tensions making it even more difficult. So how can we ease these tensions and make life easier? One of the recent webinars organised by The Webinar Vet focused on these issues and was led by Helen Goldberg, a once practising vet who has since gone on to specialise in leadership and development.
Helen explained that the development of an harmonious team starts with challenging ourselves to be more flexible and to consider situations from the point of view of others. A well-functioning team is generally dynamic and filled with a unique group of individuals creating diversity which offers a broad range of strengths.
The flip side to this, however, is the conflict brought on by diversity. We each expect other members of the team to share our own values, beliefs and ways of working and feel frustrated when this, unsurprisingly, does not happen.
Developing an understanding of how others work and “what makes them tick” is a good starting point from which we can adapt ourselves when interacting with others creating less conflict and more harmony.
It sounds so simple but obviously adapting the way we interact with others is easier said than done. In order to make this process easier, Helen suggests using a proven scientific concept known as Insights Discovery. This concept uses four colours – red, yellow, green and blue – to categorise the dominant personality traits of an individual.
Red describes people who are competitive, determined, demanding, strong-willed and are highly driven by “achievement”. Yellow describes people who are very sociable, talk a lot, generate ideas, and are often seen as the life and soul of the team.
Green describes people with deep core values and beliefs with a real passion for forming strong relationships and who can be extremely loyal. Blue describes people who are structured and analytical, always questioning why and how things are done.
Our personal uniqueness is based on a combination of all four colour energies, but generally one colour will dominate and this is usually recognisable by our self and others (I believe I fall into the “green” category).
There are positive attributes to each of these four colour energies but problems can arise when people are put under stress. The strengths of each colour can become “over-done”, said Helen, with the reds becoming aggressive, controlling, finger-pointing, over-bearing and intolerant. The yellows may become indiscrete, hasty and tend to start a lot of projects without finishing them. The greens can become stubborn, bland and docile and the blues come across as cold and indecisive.
This can play havoc with the harmony of a team and cause tension in a tired and stressed group of people which, let’s face it, isn’t unusual within a veterinary practice.
Introverts and extroverts
These colour energies can also be categorised into introverts and extroverts with reds and yellows being extroverts and greens and blues being introverts. The extroverts tend to be talkative and highly involved in discussions whereas the introverts tend to be quiet and observant, often suppressing great ideas for fear of speaking out.
Introverts and extroverts should be easy to spot in practice meetings and Helen explained that, interestingly, there is often a 50:50 split. If this split fits the picture in your practice, it is likely that 50% of the staff will feel ignored in a meeting, wishing the extroverts would be quiet so they could get a word in edgeways, and the other 50% of your staff are wishing the introverts would talk more and get more involved. This, of course, has a tendency to create tensions within meetings which often spill out into the workplace.
How to make things better
The Insights Discovery concept gives an understanding of how conflict and tension can develop within a practice due to the presence of a variety of personalities. However, a good team should be diverse and if we can get staff members to recognise the differences in our team members and understand ourselves better then we can adapt to others and create a more harmonious team.
Recognising the dominant colour of a team member is an essential skill and there are ways to work this out with relative ease. For example, watching their verbal style can be helpful with reds being talkative and loud and blues being reserved, quiet and formal.
The layout of a colleague’s desk can also be really useful with greens having lots of photos of family and perhaps the practice team on their desk and reds having sparse desks with just essential information such as lists of tasks. By recognising the colour of your colleague, you can adapt yourself to them and they will start adapting to you. For example if speaking to a red, the key is to be brief and to the point but if communicating with yellows it is very important to make them feel included and always praise and recognise them for their contribution.
Blues like to be given all the necessary information and never expect an instantaneous answer. They like to be given thinking time and often will come back with an extremely well-researched and “correct” answer. With greens it is key never to be fake.
Taking time to listen to a green and generating trust and loyalty is important although this is unlikely to be a relationship that develops overnight. It may well take some time, so patience is key. Meetings are another area where improvements can be made. The extroverts need to be more understanding and give introverts an opportunity to speak. It will also take a leap of faith for the introverts to step up and say “listen to me”. This can take a while to perfect, and practice within small groups initially may be useful.
Finally, Helen wanted to make the point that it is not our dominant colour which determines how successful we are in our careers. Take four highly successful people: Nelson Mandela (red), Gandhi (Green), Bill Gates (blue) and Richard Branson (yellow); despite being different colours they are all highly regarded and highly successful and have done much to change the world or the way we work.
Helen explains the key to their success is not their colour but the way they have harnessed their strengths and adapted to others around them.
This was a fascinating webinar, supported by Ceva Animal Health, and Helen went into much greater depth covering the observations and adaptations that we can make to try and work together harmoniously.
If you are a member of the Webinar Vet, it would be really interesting to run this webinar as part of a “lunch and learn” for a practice team and just see how much difference it makes. It could turn a sometimes difficult day into a pleasant and rewarding one.