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April 5, 2022


6 min read

In Sync: Building a Workplace that Works

Kelly Demel
In Sync: Building a Workplace that Works

If you thought this was a blog about a ’90s boy band, well … you should probably say, “Bye bye bye.” But just like NSYNC had to work tirelessly on harmony to achieve worldwide fame, we must be intentional in the workplace to build harmony within our team. When harmony is built and maintained, teams are more fulfilled. And when teams are more fulfilled, they are more productive. Since we spend at least eight hours a day working, why not do everything we can to build a workplace that works?

If you’ve ever heard a middle school band play – and we’ve all been in middle school, right? – you know what it sounds like when a group is not in harmony. In a word, it’s jarring. The same is true in the workplace. Every team member feels the discord in the absence of harmony, and it’s a distraction. Going back to the middle school metaphor, when the trumpet player is off-key, the rest of the band finds it harder to focus on hitting their own notes. To build harmony in the workplace, it’s essential to use tools that help create awareness not just of the intricacies of the business, but of the people as well. A whole person who shows up to work every day, not just an employee. And we bring our whole selves with us, with all our complexities and different defaults for critical needs like communication, recognition, and working style.

Blame it on the Birkman

A tool used at BlueByrd is the Birkman Signature report, which goes far beyond your standard personality assessment. It’s a behavioral assessment that provides insight into critical relationship components such as communication style, motivation, decision-making process, and level of comfort expressing emotions.

With the Birkman, you can uncover how these will show up – and they will! – in ways that influence team dynamics. Leveraged properly, the Birkman can help all team members develop awareness around both their strengths and blind spots, along with those of their colleagues. This awareness, if fostered, feeds into emotional intelligence in dealings with our team and helps minimize discord. For instance, if I know Shannon prefers tactful communication while Ian wants me to be as blunt as an overused knife, I can tailor my words accordingly to avoid hurt feelings or irritation. So much trust is won and lost over matters of communication. As such, individual employee preference in this area is the single most important thing I want to know about someone’s Birkman.

Along with helping us come to know more about the strengths and passions of coworkers, the Birkman also holds a mirror to our faces. From my report, I know I tend to become overly rigid and process driven when I experience stress, so I’ve developed a saying for when this happens: “Blame it on the Birkman!” This allows me to defuse my own stress with a key moment of self-awareness.

In a shocking turn of events, how we react when stressed affects the rest of our team! Knowing all of the unspoken nuances that comprise how we each show up, and being sensitive to those, when possible, can help minimize fractious interactions and help us play nice so no one leaves the sandbox.

But wait! There’s more to the Birkman.

Most of us know what we are and aren’t good at. The Birkman helps put a finer point on this by highlighting our interests rather than just how we usually show up. And these are not always the same. We can have a job we’re good at, and one in which we typically feel fulfilled, and still lose out on some opportunities to perform roles that are aligned with our true passions. But with an understanding of the areas team members are drawn to, we can look for ways to provide them – and ourselves – with opportunities to serve in those areas.  

There’s always that one person in the office who is great with numbers and data simply because they really enjoy that type of problem-solving. That’s not me. But luckily, it’s Ian. If I’m having a bit of trouble gathering the keenest insights from the data in front of me, I know who can pinpoint those insights. This type of collaboration benefits both of us because I can spend less time doing something I am not fond of, and Ian gets to spend more time brightening the office with the light bulbs that illuminate over his head when he flips the switch on the solution.

In all jobs and in every part of our careers, we have to perform job functions we don’t love. It’s one of those great parts of adulthood, like filing taxes or shopping for car insurance. Armed with the Birkman, however, we can fit the puzzle pieces of our collective interests together to best accomplish our team goals and maximize job fulfillment in the process. You hear that sound? Harmony.

Traction isn’t just for racecars

As important as the needs of people are to any business, the management of the business itself is the foundation upon which all organizational success is built.

How can we systematize our business functions in a way that optimizes outcomes and has our band reading from the same sheet of music? How can we manage the business in a way that keeps the team focused? At BlueByrd, we manage goal setting, prioritization, and people using the Entrepreneurial Operating System, or EOS. I had not heard of EOS until I joined the nest in January, and as I came to understand its tenets, I wondered where this way of thinking had been my whole professional life. It was that revelatory in its codification of planning, accountability, and avoidance of inertia.

Masterful in its simplicity, EOS breaks business down into six components: vision, people, process, data, traction, and issues. The first four are likely very familiar to anyone who has worked in a professional setting, but if siloed rather than working in concert, they can actually stymy growth. For me, it is the addition of traction and issues to this formula that create and maintain momentum.

When we think of traction, most of us probably think of tires and how the best ones grip the road. The concept of traction operates the same way in EOS but allows us to have a grip on our business and keep it stable. At the heart of this component is developing specific, measurable goals.

It’s a rocky road, but for once, that’s a good thing!

In EOS, rocks are the three to seven most important priorities each team member will focus on over the next 90 days. The number is limited to break the typical burnout cycle of trying to focus on everything at once and timed to create weekly accountability. Ever heard the story about putting rocks in a jar? We learn that if you fill a jar with sand and gravel before trying to put the rocks in, there isn’t any room for the rocks. But when the rocks go in first, the sand and gravel still fit in the space around the rocks. When we focus on our rocks at BlueByrd, we are working on goals that are individual but have been agreed upon by the team to keep us moving forward. With the built-in accountability provided in weekly meetings and collaboration around obstacles standing in our way, the BlueByrd team minimizes friction and increases traction.

Though we are all now poised to move together as a team, issues will inevitably rise to create potential roadblocks. It is how we handle these issues as a team that determines progress. The EOS formula for decision-making and problem resolution is called the Issues Solving Track and keeps issues at the forefront until they are each successfully resolved.  

Identify. Discuss. Solve. That’s that formula.

Simple, right? The problem many teams have is that while they easily identify and discuss issues, they do not actually determine solutions. An issue is pushed to the back burner until it catches fire, and only then is a solution required. A company working in EOS, however, keenly focuses on issues each week as a key part of the leadership team’s time together. In fact, 60 of the 90 weekly meeting minutes are devoted to issue resolution, with issues prioritized by the team to structure the discussion. Nine issues altogether? Put them in order, because we are only starting with the top three, and it’s block and tackle until the 60 minutes is up.

Of course, this approach does not guarantee that the issues list will clear every week, or even that the top three will be solved. In those cases, issues stay on the list until they reach the top three. What this approach does guarantee is a structure and method for keeping the team accountable for solving issues that hold back the vision. The issues are prioritized as a team, discussed as a team, and solved as a team. This is a collective process that pushes us toward common goals and – you guessed it – harmony through a united investment. Issue? At BlueByrd, it’s no longer a four-letter word.

The final chirp

Business is hard. People are harder. And while the complexities of both challenge us daily, let’s learn to pick up our instruments with the hope that using tools like the Birkman assessment and EOS can help us all hit our notes to create the sound of success. The BlueByrd Band? Thank you – we’re here to stay!

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