Get a life!

I have a top team around me who quite simply lack any kind of personality, let alone the charisma that some of your writers bang...

I have a top team around me who quite simply lack any kind of personality, let alone the charisma that some of your writers bang on about.

What am I to do? Shall I recruit a new team, or is there any quick fix I can buy and apply to help them?

Appreciate their strengths

Robina Chatham
Lecturer in information systems, Cranfield School of Management

I do not think you can buy "personality" off the shelf. Neither do I believe that you can change the intrinsic nature of one's character. However, I do not believe that you should replace you team - indeed, you would be on sticky territory both illegally and ethically.

My suggestion would be to develop your team's emotional intelligence, influencing skills and political acumen. Being part of that process yourself, you would get to know and understand your team better and thereby appreciate their strengths as well as their weaknesses.

Don't recruit looking for charisma

Roger Marshall
IT director, Corporation of London

I do not think you can buy "personality" off the shelf. Neither do I believe that you can change the intrinsic nature of one's character. However, I do not believe that you should replace your team - indeed, you would be on sticky territory both legally and ethically.

My suggestion would be to develop your team's emotional intelligence, influencing skills and political acumen. Being part of that process yourself, you would get to know and understand your team better and thereby appreciate their strengths as well as their weaknesses.

So you have a top team. I presume you mean that they are the tops technically. That is excellent. Be happy and think of all the benefits that gives you.

But you clearly feel that you need more from the team. Perhaps they need more "people" skills because they have a support role and come into contact with users in that most stressful situation, when systems fail and users cannot get their work done.

In that case I would say stick with your top team. What the user wants most of all is someone to fix the problem, not someone who will explain beautifully why he cannot fix it. Accept that you will only rarely find individuals who are brilliant at both. Customer care training will make up for any shortfall in your current team - this is much more likely to succeed than trying to make top technicians out of people you recruit for their supposed "charisma".

Perhaps the reason for your concern is that you need sales and marketing people, rather than technicians. If so, you may need to accept that there is no quick fix you can apply, and your current team are simply not going to make it. But if that is so, ask yourself why you are in this situation. Has the nature of your business changed, so that it needs to move from a technical to sales orientation? Has the business grown to date because it was good at selling, or because it was good technically? Be sure that in pursuing a new business strategy you do not throw away your existing competitive advantages.

Start with self-appraisal

Colin Palmer
Programme director, Impact

There are a number of issues here, not least, I suspect, your attitude towards your team.

Anyone would feel uninspired if their boss viewed them like this and might even be regaling them with the fact (even if you are not, I bet they sense your attitude). Start with yourself - how good is your leadership? How well do you understand and tap into the excellent qualities that your team possesses? You may want to consider some personal development or leadership training, which will put you in a better position to understand their needs and the gaps. Fire them by all means but do not be surprised if the next lot turn out to have the same faults.

Think interpersonal, not personality

John Eary
Senior consultant, NCC Group

Do not confuse charisma with the ability to get the job done. Some sports stars - I am thinking of football and Formula 1 - may not be sparkling personalities but they can be excellent in their chosen profession. There are jobs in IT, such as development, where a good programmer will still be valued even if they are not the most communicative individual.

However, interpersonal skills rather than personality are becoming more important to IT professionals as they become more client-focused and regarded as an integral part of the business.

You need to differentiate between what the job needs and what you would like to see. Charismatic team leaders are clearly an asset but too many egos in the team could lead to more arguments than productive work. In IT, a truly motivating team leader will need to have professional respect as well as charisma.

People often show different behaviours between work and play. If you take the trouble to find out, the shy and retiring programmer in the office may well be the life and soul of the party outside of work in their own group of trusted friends. Look at how you are managing your team - are you encouraging people to shine? Confidence-building measures, such as praise and opportunities to demonstrate their expertise to users, may help to develop these shrinking violets.

If you want to rebuild the team more formally, team-building exercises and psychometric assessment can be helpful. First you must define the ideal profile of the person who is required to do the job. Putting staff through psychometric tests will then indicate those staff that are most suited to these roles. Only if there is a clear absence of likely candidates that can be developed should you consider bringing new people in.

This was last published in January 2001

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