Serena Simmons Consultant Psychologist

Change. Motivate. Adapt. Improve. Perform

Birds of a feather shouldn’t flock together…

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For several years I was responsible for teaching Organisational Psychology or Business Psychology to undergraduates.


One of the things I taught as part of this module was Team-Working, which I think receives a really bad press actually and probably conjures up all sorts of uncomfortable Ricky Gervais/Office scenes.


Anyway, I happen to love team working and the the theory and research that goes along with it. I love it not only because the Psychology of how we work in teams is so fascinating, but becuase you get to do some really fun things and activities when you want to practically show what’s going on.  I like to dig deep on the subject and it’s great to challenge your thinking on what you think your function is when working as part of a team.

– What’s your role? – 

There are many interesting psychological theories that help to shed light on the kind of things that happen in these groups situations.  One classic theory for example is Tuckman’s Stage Theory, which proposes that when we start to work in a new group or on a new project we go through stages of Forming, Storming, Norming & Performing with Adjourning being added on a bit later (highlighted below).


Then there are models that look specifically at our roles.  Belbin’s Team roles (see below) is another theoretical model about the kind of roles we fall into/take/have when working as part of a team.


It’s these kind of theories and models that underpin a lot of the psychometrics that get used in job interviews and the like.  Myers Briggs (see below) being the one of the most popular, as a tool that assesses your personality type, which thus gives employers a good idea of where you might fit into an already existing team.


It’s been my experience that people love to do these assessments.  I think people relate to it like a kind of ‘clairvoyancey’, and people often end up saying things ‘oh, that’s SO me!” when they do them.

There is, quite rightly, lots of critique of these models.  They are not the ‘truth’, but you could argue more broadly speaking that we do each have certain personality traits that make us good at doing some tasks and less good at doing others.  That we are good at taking on some roles and less good at taking on others.

For example, we can probably all think of people that are natural leaders in a group situation.  We can think of others who add a creative element, or those that are good at the ‘humping and lumping’ the stuff that seems to get the job done.  It’s partly why I think we like to watch reality TV situations where groups are thrown together.  From Big Brother to Bear Grylls, we like to look at groups muddle along, some personalities clashing and others forming into beautiful friendships.

– Your life, Your business – 

So why is this important in your life?

Well, I would argue that knowing your role in life is just as important to you even if you don’t work in a typical workplace situation.  You see, we all encounter situations where we have to work/be/live alongside others.  That includes our families and it includes our intimate relationships and friendship groups.

I think it’s a powerful concept to know your ‘role’ in these situations.  By that I mean to be able recognise what your strengths are in those relationships.

What are you good at?

What do you like doing, what don’t you like doing?

If there are things that you both like or dislike doing, can you compromise?

Maybe by identifying these things you can instinctively fall back on times when you know you are the leader, but just as well step back and know when you are better not to try and lead in a particular situation.

It’s my experience that people in intimate relationships and friendship groups are happier and more harmonious when there is an understanding and acceptance of this.  It’s when people all have their chance to shine, chance to sit back and praise, chance to lead and chance to learn.

I can think of a few groups of friends of my own where this is the case.

There is one in particular where we go away as a group of 7, several times a year.  Partly why it works so well I think is because, aside from just getting on, the dynamics of the groups work well in that we are all good at ‘things’ and we step back and allow those people to do those things.

It’s a super important concept too if you’re an entrepreneur running your own business.

You see when you’re an entrepreneur, you often have to be all things and do all the things that sometimes you are not good at or don’t enjoy.  If you can identify these things early on, it allows you to plan and think about jobs and parts of your business you might like to delegate if/when you are able to?  It also gives you a great insight into the people you might like to hire in the future.

– I need another me- 

You often hear entrepreneurs saying that ‘I wish I had another me’.  This isn’t actually accurate.  Another you would just be able to bring along what you do, and although you are important and the hub of the business, you actually want what I call ‘complimentarity’ in your business.

I mean, you probably started the business you are in because you are passionate about something in particular.  For example, I do what I do because I love helping people to change.  That involves seeing people 1:1 and in groups and therefore I love doing the ‘psychology bit’.  I’ve learnt to love blogging and I do love writing too, but I can tell you that I don’t like doing my accounts, I don’t like wasting hours figuring out how to do things for my website, I don’t like all aspects of marketing though I do like some, and there’s a whole heap of admin I’d give away in a heart beat if I had the chance.

It means for my business that I’m looking to hire people who LOVE doing those bits.  I need them to take on those roles that are complimentary to me, that I can happily give away because well, I don’t like them and they LOVE them….it’s a win, win situation!

Over to you…

What roles do you take on naturally?

What are you good at?

What situations do you feel comfortable leading on and which situations do you feel like others should lead?

What are you willing to let go of so that others are able to shine?

I really encourage to look at these things are start to embrace the things you are good at, and look at letting go of the things that you are happy giving away; not because you couldn’t do them, or don’t want to learn, I mean I’ve never tiled anything in my life, but I’d like to learn and give it a go for example.  It’s more about knowing where your strengths lie and pursuing them because it makes you feel happy and fulfilled.

Til next week…



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