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Do You Know Who You Work With?

Do you really know the people that you work with? Are you getting the best of the people who work in your team?

We go to work and we sit next to people and we speak with our colleagues every day. But those conversations are invariably either about work, or small talk (who went to the football match on Saturday, or the latest Netflix series).

Truly understanding the people that you work with comes in several categories. For example, what about their interests outside of the office? What makes them passionate; what gets them fired up; what is their own personal sense of purpose?

Then there is experience. What were they good at school? Did they go to university, and if so, what did they study? What expertise might they have which is not currently being utilised by the business?

And then we have character. If someone is argumentative, what might be the cause? If someone is shy, how can their ideas be harvested? If someone is dominant, how can they be encouraged to listen?


The company Double Retail operate a project system whereby any employee can ask to start a project. As long as no colleague can point out how it might be to the detriment of the company, others volunteer to join that project and it enters into a research phase.

One of the many interesting outcomes from running this system is the discovery of skills and expertise that the company was not utilising. For example, one employee wanted to start a marketing initiative, and volunteers for the group were sought.

A member of the design team offered their help. It transpired that they had completed a degree in marketing. It was not something they wish to spend their career doing – typical of many university graduates who change the subject having completed her degree. Nevertheless, she welcomed the opportunity of using her knowledge to help the company.

Where do you go in conflict?

Another business had two members of the leadership team who particularly rubbed each other up the wrong way. All would be fine between them until they were involved in a discussion on a topic upon which they did not completely agree. Within five minutes one would be pointing his finger, while the other sat silently, arms folded.

The character of these two individuals worked against each other and prevented effective decision making.

The SDI personality test shows not only personality type, but how that personality changes during conflict. Both of these individuals were, to some degree, “Red“, meaning strong willed, visionary, perhaps a little stubborn. During conflict, however, one went deep red, well the other went ‘Green’ (meaning analytical).

As a consequence, when they began discussing a point, one would become entrenched, while the other refused to discuss further until they had more information. Not helpful on either side.

As a result of understanding each other better following the SDI tests, they were able to appreciate what was happening during a discussion. When either saw the other going to their conflict personality, they agreed to stop the discussion, and come back when either one had calmed down, and/or the other had gained the additional information that they needed.

The net result was better management decisions.

Bringing to work what matters outside the office

In a third company, one individual felt very strongly about environmental issues. He asked if he could start a project looking at the environmental impact of the company.

Initially, not everyone was keen to see resources spent in this way, as they could not see any immediate benefit. As the project would not harm the business, however, the green light was given.

Initially, the project looked at the direct impact of the business, and some small cost savings were made by reducing the consumption of the business in various areas.

As part of their research, however, the project team moved on to looking at how the company delivered their service to their clients. Being a manufacturing business, they realised that they could make changes to how they produced their products which would help their customers to also reduce the environmental impact.

Not only were these changes implemented, but the marketing department made a splash of these changes. This resulted in increased orders as companies who were also concerned about the environmental impact chose to do more business with this company.

All this came from one individual sharing their purpose with their colleagues.


How well do you know who you work with? There are a number of ways to increase awareness, for example ask everyone to share a hobby, interest or something nobody else knows about them during a team meeting.

Undertaking team personality profiling, and encouraging any individual to bring to the company a project about which they feel passionate, are other ways of improving how the company can get the most out of it’s most valuable resource – its employees.

This article is taken from course 3 of The Eternal Business Programme, a three course online learning module for companies. Course 1 is for owners to understand more about employee ownership and whether it might be the right succession plan for their business. If you’d like more information on the Employee Ownership Trust you can email Chris on  

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