So, you’ve been put in charge of a team of people for a big event or task. Congratulations?!? Don’t worry, you’ve got this!
After you have a crystal-clear understanding of the assignment, a key next step is understanding the people who make up your team. Once you know what motivates them and how they think, you can connect them with assignments that help them do their best to make this a great project. Degrees in psychology aren’t required—just some simple observations on human nature will give you plenty of answers.
Are they short-termers, or long-termers?
There are two kinds of project people: Short-termers and long-termers. When it comes to your committee members, an important question to answer is, How often do they need to feel success? Some may like to move from assignment to assignment quickly, while others can work on the same project for weeks, months, even years. One is not better than the other; in fact, you need both. One group, however, can be more preferable for certain projects than the other. Short-termers need projects where they can see and feel quick results; that’s what brings them satisfaction and energy. Long-termers want to understand a problem and the entire context around it, that’s what brings them satisfaction and energy. If you put a short-termer on a project that takes months to bear fruit, they will become disenchanted; likewise, a long-termer on a series of unrelated, short projects will feel unfulfilled. Understanding each of your teammates in this regard will help you create a set of actions that allow them to find satisfactory results and keep their energy on it. A bad pairing will inhibit progress.
So, what do you do when you have a team of short-termers, but the goal is a long-term one? Break down the big goal into smaller projects so they can move through items, check them off their lists, and be ready for the next series of assignments. For the long-termer in a short-term goal situation, you will want to keep them connected; these individuals usually do well with research assignments, problem-solving issues and challenges that come up in the process. Be open with them about the long-term outcomes, and what it can mean by having them involved. They will find satisfaction in digging into one aspect and coming back with well-researched potential solutions. Understanding short-termers and long-termers is a key skill to develop among your professional skill set.
Are they outward-processors, or inward-processors?
What I mean is, do they arrive at their conclusions by thinking outwardly (saying what they are thinking as they are thinking), or do they prefer to think to themselves for a while before giving an opinion? Like short-termers vs. long-termers, neither is better . . . but each are better suited for particular situations. Many relational challenges project teams encounter can stem around a bad match between these two orientations. The outward-processing person is a wealth of ideas, not afraid to suggest really rough ideas that may or may not be practical. This can frustrate an inward-processing person, who would much rather everyone come prepared with their best thinking. An outward processor may also get frustrated with an inward processor, believing that they never contribute to the discussion.
So how do you discern the difference? Not surprisingly, outward processors tend to be extroverted; inward processors, introverted. With a little preparation on your part, you can help each succeed on your team. Here are a few tips:
- Use outward-processing people to generate energy and new ideas. It may be that you have a couple of them meet beforehand to generate a list of ideas to bring to the committee so that they have all the time they want to ideate.
- Be open with outward processors to direct some of their enthusiasm toward asking other committee members what they are thinking.
- Help prepare inward-processing people to bring their best thinking by letting them know agenda item and topics beforehand so that they have plenty of time to think on them.
- Set the tone by defining ideation and solution planning by saying something as “We are going to spend twenty minutes coming up with as many ideas as possible. They don’t have to be good ones yet, just ideas.”
- Connect your inward processors to big ideas and challenge them to find ways to make them work.
Knowing who your committee members are and how they think will provide you the insight you need to lead them. The tips and information provided here will help reduce miscommunication and frustration, helping each individual move to a place on the team that leverages best their specific gifts and skill sets.
Dr. Phil Alsup serves as executive director for Impact 360 Institute and is the author of Five Key Steps for Planning Anything.