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Building a New Team: Alignment or Diversity?

June 3, 2017
Jaap Hollander

A colleague from the US asked me: when profiling for a new team, would I want to see great diversity? In my mind that would make sense, but in reality I might want to see it aligned in some areas. What is your opinion?

In my opinion, the desired meta programs depend on what the team needs to accomplish. A sales team is different from a policy team. So in terms of priorities I would say: first of all you want the team to have the required meta programs and values to be successful at their main tasks. Once that is accomplished, you want to have as much diversity as possible. It is a bit like the relationship between towards (achieving goals) and away form (solving problems) in coaching. You want away from in the frame of towards. With team you want diversity in the frame of alignment.

If you want to put it in a procedure (which I often like to do) it would be something like this:

1. Define what the team’s main task is

2. Define what the necessary meta programs and values are for that task.

3. Make sure some team members have all (or as many as possible) of those thinking style elements.

4. Find additional team members how have some task-critical meta programs but who also have some meta programs an/or Graves drives that are distinctly different.

5. Explain thoroughly to the team why you composed them like this, and what the benefits of thinking style diversity are.

6. Prepare the team for dealing comfortably with conflicts that may arise from this engineered meta program diversity.

Good luck!

About the author 

Jaap Hollander

Psychologist, living in the Netherlands. Founded MindSonar in 1995. Directs MindSonar Global, which manages the ICT development, applications and the curriculum of the MS Certification Trainings. Working part time as a trainer, writer and coach as well as being an expressionist painter (artist name JAAPH, see jaaph.com). Has written 10 books on NLP and Provocative Coaching.

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  1. In thinking about group projects I have participated in, I’ve noticed that sometimes it helps when it feels like everyone in the group is very much in sync, while other times it helps when people have different interests/abilities/etc and naturally want to divide up the tasks into specific parts. Maybe it sort of depends on if you have a task that needs to be done by everyone together, or a task that requires several different people to take on different aspects of the task?

    Your blog has inspired me to learn more about meta programs. My day job is teaching, and I think I could benefit professionally from learning more about this area of study!

  2. Hi Mandy – Yes, you’re talking about sameness/difference in the team. Sometimes you need sameness, or stability, or maintenance and sometimes you need difference or change. Thanks for your comment!

  3. We are working with a CEO and we are analyzing the strategy and the growth stage of the company. In that sense it is also define the characteristics desired for his team.

    I think your procedure provides a excelent method to support my work.

    It is very interesting to design the team’s needs and align the metaprogrammes required.

    Thanks Jaap!

  4. I see the work teams changing, adapting to different contexts, for the same reason I see the need for flexibility in the majority of them for as far as possible to guarantee the success.
    I was able to live a successful team at the opening of a business with more than 5000 employees, some of them did not work when the team entered in the maturity and we could not show them the need for change
    We believed that only well were and could not move. With MindSonar would have been possible show a mirror and take them from one color to another

  5. As part of my practice MindSonar, I have applied the test for 2 teams with different approaches and I find it very interesting how we can work with teams when each person realizes how are thinking in terms of their team and how they think others. It is very rewarding.

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