Recipes and Orchestras

There are some really helpful personality tests and measures on the market. We use several of them in our work with teams, as they provide science-based scaffolding within which to explore and appreciate individual differences. By framing their results in terms of ‘preferences’ rather than strengths or weaknesses, discussions can be open and fruitful as opposed to limited and laden with excuses.

The temptation then is to try and create the ‘perfect’ team by blending in all the right ingredients. A good helping of ‘extraversion’ here, a pinch of ‘industrious over-focus’ there, topped off with a generous seasoning of ‘sunshine yellow’. If it were that simple though, we would see many more Michelin starred teams than we do.

Rather than likening team composition to a recipe, how about comparing it to an orchestra? Orchestras can be comprised of an endless variety of instruments. They can interpret and bring to life any score. Individual members of the orchestra can respond in the moment to the performance of others, adjusting to time or volume or the conductor as needed. Occasionally, one or two members of the orchestra get a solo and a standing ovation – good for them.

Play your own instrument. Play it well. Listen out for other members – play louder when they lose their place, and be happy for them when they hit all the right keys. 

You can’t play Mozart as a one-man-band.