Over the course of the crisis, I have seen that some personalities have become more pronounced. You may have noticed this—not just in yourself, but in the way your friends and family are, too. Work happens at home and home is where you are more you.
There’s nothing wrong with this. In fact, it’s fascinating and I believe it has created a spirit that has allowed our business to grow during this period.
But cognitive diversity is hugely valuable to any business. The more different the people, the more diverse the thinking, the richer the pool of ideas. A Deloitte report found that cognitively and demographically diverse teams can enhance innovation by 20 percent and identify or reduce risks by up to 30 percent.
But it does make the already-tricky problem of managing each other trickier. When a team spends the majority of its working week together, the personality of each member rubs off a little on everyone else. Inevitably, this creates some consistency, and that makes managing simpler.
Our internal surveys show how things are changing. Since introverted types might find it harder to really grow as a person in a crowded office space, it makes sense that they would enjoy having some more time alone. But even the extraverted types who used to thrive in the bustling office environment have been converted to remote working. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of the global workforce feel they are more productive working from home. This has been proven without a doubt by our own internal survey at the tree.
So even as we return to a version of office work, it won’t be the same as it was before. We want to do what we can so that the development of individual personalities—and rising diversification of thought within teams—can continue.
Everyone is different
Managing diverse personalities begins with an assumption: everyone has a different way of working, responds differently to feedback and has a different individual mission. There is no one-size-fits-all or blanket set of rules that will produce a desirable response in every team member.
This understanding flows through everything. During our interview procedure, we ask potential new joiners to bring in items that say something about them—to do a “show and tell”. We had one joiner bring in the exoskeleton of tarantula in a jar.
Not only does this help us to find those interesting-and-interested people that we know will flourish at our agency, but it also helps us to understand the new minds that we can add to our mix.
Engaging each other
This situation has raised all sorts of questions about authority, autonomy and accountability in businesses, and has helped people to see past seniority.
In the early stages of the crisis, many places noticed there was a sudden absence of communication, and people struggling to adapt. But by pushing a duty of care onto everyone in your business—in effect, empowering everyone to manage each other—you can inoculate your team against this.
Charge every individual to be aware of every other individual, to make time to communicate with them, and to cushion their work questions with more personal ones. Empower and trust everyone to play a part in managing everyone else, as well as themselves, and they will flourish together.
Yearn for the sea
For many businesses, the outlook is uncertain. There are real challenges ahead. We don’t know what the future holds, and we can’t control our external circumstances. But we can look inwards. Now is a time for organisations to think about their wonderful people and what they stand for.
Now is the time where everyone can get more in touch with themselves and the reasons why they do things. They will think beyond the day-to-day tasks, the weekly goals, the monthly KPIs, and drill down into the real reasons for working. It’s something we are working on this as a business. We are unifying our reasons for why we do what we do and we’ll use it to motivate us all towards more meaning.
I didn’t think I’d be one to end an article on a quote, but here’s one from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry that I always come back to when thinking about what we want to achieve for our collective of diverse thinkers. “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up your men to collect wood and give orders and distribute the work. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” There, I did it.