Communications teams come in many different shapes and sizes.
Whether a three-person team or a global department, collaboration is essential for getting the most out a team's constituent parts.
Interviews by Jan Wisniewski
As part of their recent research into teamwork, professionals services firm Deloitte employed the latest analytical technology to identify four distinct work styles in the workplace. Deloitte invited individuals to take a self-assessment based on observable traits and preferences to determine which of the four patterns of behaviour they most closely align with. Suzanne M. Johnson Vickberg, lead researcher on the Business Chemistry system, explains how these four types can work alongside each other and collaborate successfully.
The recent Deloitte Business Chemistry research has identified four personality types in the workplace: the Pioneer, Guardian, Integrator and Driver. Do each them need different approaches to communication?
Suzanne M. Johnson Vickberg: Yes, communications is one of the places where we see clear differences in what is likely to work better for some types than for others. For example, for the Guardians it’s important that expectations are made very clear. Because Guardians are so focused on details they’re going to want sources and citations to be indicated so they understand where the claims that are being made come from.
The Pioneer is not likely to spend a lot of time poring over details of written communication in advance of a meeting. With them, it’s more important that communication is intriguing or surprising in a way that will get their attention. For Drivers, it’s important that communications be very direct and logical. They don’t like to try to figure out what it is that you are really saying. Communication should also be succinct.
Drivers get impatient. Bullet points work really well with Drivers – with the punchline at the top. They want to know right away: “What are you trying to tell me?” For Integrators it’s important that communication must be personable at some level. They’re going to be drawn in by feeling like they’re being recognised as an individual person, not as if they’re a robot. They do tend to care whether there is some level of diplomacy in a communication, so the same level of directness that works with drivers doesn’t necessarily work as well with integrators. They also prefer to have more context.
Is it always possible for these four different types of people to work together?
It’s always possible but it’s not always easy and it’s not always done well. People report that the type they find most challenging and least enjoyable to work with is their opposite. One of the beauties of our Business Chemistry research is that it helps people to understand why those relationships are so challenging and it also helps them see the value in working through some of those difficulties.
I’m a Guardian – I really like to focus on the details and maybe I am comfortable with the way things are now. If you’re a pioneer and you’re always pitching the next big idea, I might find that challenging but I also know that you can help me get unstuck when I get a little too conformable with keeping things the way that they are, or that you can encourage me to be a little more creative about how I get things done. Understanding why I might be struggling with you, that your perspective is different from mine, that they’re both valuable and we can really complement each other if we can work through them, is what makes people able to work through those opposite-type challenges.
We’ve talked a lot about working together, but what about the opposite: can any of these personality types benefit from time alone to reflect?
They all could benefit from that but some types more than others. All types report that they like working in teams, however Guardians also prefer to have time for processing things alone. But there is also a sense of that with some of the other types. For example, there are two subsets of Integrators. The Dreamer is more internally focused, Teamers are more externally focused. The Dreamers tend to be more introverted and they tend to want to think through ideas and make connections between ideas, and that’s often work they do alone.
There is also a subtype of Driver that we call the Scientist, who is a little more internally focused. The more externally focused type of Driver we call the Commander. That person is out in front of the room but the Scientist might be stepping away from what the group is doing and experimenting on their own, thinking through: “How do these things work and which is the best solution?”. They don’t necessarily need to do that with other people all the time.
Deloitte Business Chemistry work types:
- Big idea person: imaginative, spontaneous, energetic and outgoing
- Focused on the possibilities: “What could we do?”
- Adaptable: able to work with nearly any situation
- Their opposite is the Guardian
- Detail focused and careful planners
- Willing to implement structures and processes
- Reserved but bring stability and rigour to a team
- Comfortable sticking with what works now
- Diplomatic: aware of how others are feeling and responding
- Consensus orientated: wanting to have everyone on board
- Focused on relationship: bringing the team together and working together effectively
- Their opposite is the Driver
- Focused: quantitative and technically-minded
- Logical: Think through ideas and in a linear fashion
- Enjoy challenges and challenging others
- Competitive and direct in their interactions
As shown by their recent win in the Communications Team of the Year category at the European Excellence Awards, communicators for the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) are in sync with each other. Team leader Craig Spence outlines the structures in place and the amount of planning involved in allowing this international team to thrive.
What is the size of your communications team and what is the hierarchical structure?
Craig Spence: The Media and Communications team consists of 10 people and is supported by a network of 50 plus international volunteers. The team is divided into three divisions – digital media, media operations, media relations and editorial – and each division is headed up by a senior manager who reports into me. The digital media division is responsible for the management of content creation for the 60 social media accounts we operate in multiple languages, whilst the media operations team oversees our major events to ensure the media experience is the best it can possibly be.
The media relations and editorial team creates daily content around each of the 28 Paralympic sports. The IPC also acts as the international federation for 10 sports, so we implement annual communication plans for each of these sports working closely with the organising committees for our major events such as World and European Championships. I report into the IPC chief executive and IPC president, overseeing all three divisions whilst also acting as IPC spokesman and looking after corporate relations and Paralympic Games PR and liaison with Organising Committees.
You mentioned the three divisions within your communications department. How are tasks and responsibilities delegated?
As with the Paralympic Games, we tend to work in four year cycles producing a communication strategy that lasts for the whole quadrennium and complements the objectives of the overall IPC strategic plan. From this strategy we create annual corporate plans, with each division head setting key performance indicators and timelines for every activity we undertake. Frequent team meetings with the division heads ensure everyone is on the same page about what is expected to be delivered and when. Each senior manager is then responsible for delegating work to their own team and delivering the results expected of them.
Can you give us an example of your team working together to execute your strategy or to overcome a challenge?
During a Paralympic Games the team grows from the 10 full-time staff to around 100 people, with the addition of a number of consultants and volunteers. Planning for the Games is a military style operation, which often starts about 18 months out from the Opening Ceremony. Due to the number of temporary workers we recruit it is vital that everyone within the team is aware of their own roles and responsibilities and what the overall objectives are. Ensuring clear lines of responsibility and clear lines of communication within each team is also key, especially with so much going on each day.
Regular team meetings and good internal communication during Games-time ensures that divisions are not working in silos and that everyone is aware of what is going on. A successful Paralympic Games is not just about the IPC delivering. We have to work hand-in-hand with the Organising Committee, hundreds of rights holding broadcasters, media and sponsors to deliver a common objective – the best Paralympics to date.
What’s your advice for other communication teams for collaborating effectively?
Clear communication, good planning and strong relationships are fundamental to effective collaboration. You must have everyone singing from the same hymn sheet.
From a multi-tiered international workforce to a team with less than a handful of members, the De Beers Group relies on only a few individuals to create and execute quality communications strategies. But what they lack in numbers they make up for in a strong team ethos and innovative thinking – as proven by their Communication Team of the Year award at the North American Excellence Awards. Tom Ormsby, head of this unit, gives an insight into how a flexible approach and a deep understanding of their company has his team achieving outsized results.
How many people do you lead and what is the makeup of the team?
Tom Ormsby: Our team is just three people: myself as head of function, a communications superintendent and a communications specialist. We support three De Beers remote diamond mines in Canada, our operational support centre, exploration team, projects and all other De Beers’ business that takes place in Canada. We deliver internal, external and executive communications, media relations, corporate social investment, images, brand management and special events. We also manage our external website, intranet and social media presence. In addition, we deliver media training across the company and all sit on our pan-Canadian crisis management team.
That’s a tall order for a team of three. How do you share tasks and responsibilities to make sure everything gets done?
The biggest challenge is to stay on top of key strategic deliverables that add value to the business and not to get side-tracked by items that are “nice to have”. We meet weekly to formally discuss tasks and strategies, and connect pretty much daily on an ad hoc basis as issues arise. We’ve also split our time to allow scheduled work to take place with room for the unknown. For example, I focus on external, media and executive communications most of the time and only schedule 15 per cent of my day for tasks or meetings that can be planned ahead, as so often my day changes before my feet hit the floor.
The other team members split their days 60-40 and 85-15 for known versus unknown work. It’s not perfect, but it helps get us some breathing room when things land out of the blue.
Great advice! Do the three of you use collaborative tools??
We have several, including being equipped with Microsoft Surface Pro tablets. Our team also had a hand in the design, layout and technology for our new office in Calgary, so we have several physical collaboration areas where we can access a suite of multi-screens, dry-erase boards (still my favourite!) and video conferencing. Tools such as Lync, SharePoint, Skype and Face Time are helpful, especially where we all travel frequently across Canada and often WiFi is our only option when we are hundreds of kilometres from the nearest infrastructure, including on the edge of the Arctic Circle.
What would you say to other communication teams who are looking to produce similar quality in collaboration?
I am fortunate to be on the De Beers Canada senior leadership team and involved in day-to-day business discussions for the company, which allows my team direct access to what Grunig describes as the “dominant coalition” and one of the most effective structures for communications in an organisation. This has helped us really understand our business inside out and the real issues being faced from the boardroom to the shop floor.
We also make a point of being at the mines regularly, so we stay connected with them and their communications needs, which in turn helps us ensure our communications strategies are targeted to the what is specifically required both internally and externally for success. By regularly putting ourselves in their shoes, we find collaboration flows naturally.