The people at KAE Marketing Intelligence thought they were pretty good at communicating. But as partner and marketing director Simon Dannatt reports, they found there was ample room for improvement
KAE Marketing Intelligence is a boutique marketing consultancy that provides strategic marketing advice to a large range of clients including American Express, Vodafone, British Telecom, Unilever and Charles Schwab.
Our 35-person team is incredibly diverse – an eclectic mix of strong willed and independent people from a wide range of very different backgrounds. Managing this group, as someone who has seen us working put it, is like herding cats.
The biggest common divide within the team is between the creative types and those of a more analytical nature – the word explosive springs to mind. Interestingly, our commercial success depends on these two groups working together in perfect harmony, or as close as we can get to it.
We have tried a wide range of team building and communications training exercises, events and courses in an attempt to get the company to function as a lean and mean consulting machine with, I have to say, imperfect results.
Putting Insights Training & Development’s Charles Grimes into the KAE lions’ den might have seemed foolhardy. Charles is a soft-spoken, mild mannered human resources professional – or at least that is the way he came across the first time I met him.
It was with some trepidation I introduced him to KAE at our annual team building event. But Charles is the Clark Kent of the team building world – he was energetic, dynamic and fully in control at all times.
We started by working on understanding the impact of personal perception focusing on how our view of everyday events, people and even world events is coloured by our internal beliefs. With personal examples and interactive exercises Charles demonstrated how each of our personal heroes could be someone else’s villain, how our best approach to a challenge can become a waste of time and how what makes something right for us can be completely wrong for others.
We moved on to the simple colour classifications Insights uses to describe the personal personality or style preferences we all have – fiery red for the competitive, demanding and strong willed behaviour of some of us, sunshine yellow for the sociable, dynamic, demonstrative and expressive, earth green for the caring, encouraging relaxed and amiable, cool blue for the cautious precise, questioning and analytical.
These colours and preferences were used to provide each of us with a better understanding of ourselves and how we tended to behave, particularly when under pressure. While we can all exhibit all of the traits, it quickly became very obvious why people who tend towards blue think yellow people are shallow and talk too much and why green people think reds are arrogant and aggressive. Most important of all, through the use of a range of extremely funny examples, Charles made people realise that none of these particular traits is better or worse than any other.
Based on our responses to a questionnaire sent out ahead of the event, we were each provided with a personal insights report. These, to the great surprise of the more cynical in our team, provided a frighteningly accurate description of our personal styles and the differences with those around us.
The key to Insights is understanding yourself before you move on to understanding others. So we spent some time reviewing our personal reports which were exceptionally well laid out, easy to follow and remarkably insightful. Only once we had a full understanding of how the reports worked and should be used did we move on to working on how our personal style impacts on others.
For me, the most valuable part of the whole session was the work we then did on how to adapt our own styles to better connect with others in the team. Watching the light of understanding come on for some of our number who normally grate horribly with each other was incredibly rewarding personally and a credit to Charles’s performance.
The final part of the session involved identifying areas that we could each work on to develop our effectiveness at communicating. To facilitate this, Insights provided us all with a work book that contains further tools for development of the team.
The session was a success not just because of the quality and usefulness of the material, but also because of the involvement Charles managed to achieve with the team. People listened, made notes, gave feedback and comments, questioned what they did not understand and participated wholeheartedly. On top of all of this, we had a great deal of open, easy and delightful fun.
To prove we can all adopt the energies and preferences of others and be more effective in our communication, Charles Grimes took off his Clark Kent clothing and delivered the Insights training in the form of Superman. It was a brilliant demonstration of what we can all achieve if we practise what he taught.
Charles Grimes is Superman
Charles’s challenge was to compress a course that normally takes two days and apply it to an articulate, creative, intelligent and somewhat outspoken group in slightly less than half a day. He rose to this challenge with apparent ease, expertly managing a high-intensity session that has made a permanent, positive change to our team effectiveness.
Communication is extremely important to us as a company. We thought we were reasonably good at it, particularly with one another. What we learned on the course opened our eyes to our weaknesses. Thankfully, we also learned how to adapt and improve, which we have been striving to do ever since.
The tools Insights provides are exceptionally useful in any environment where you have to perform as a team.