Teamwork Combo-Platter

Hire the right combination of people and set up your professional environment correctly and your team has the best chance of producing incredible results.

Today I’d like to talk about creating smaller working groups for a particular project that use individual’s personalities and preferences to your advantage.

My dad has done a lot of work with insurance companies analyzing the risk culture they exhibit, and which management strategies are best suited to their individual challenges and existing team. He often talks about the four types of approaches to risk that are most common to managers in insurance companies. I’ve used a basic version of his logic in helping formulate a lot of the culture I have tried to perpetuate as a manager. In simple terms, the four types of risk approaches outlined in the paper above are articulated in the following diagram:

In case this type of drawing doesn’t scream applications at you, here are a few for a camp setting:

  • Each summer we take the whole camp on several trips to the beach. This trip is fairly straightforward but carries several health and safety risks. Big worries include losing a kid, a car crash, or inclement weather. Medium risks include injuries (assuming it’s like broken arm or less, otherwise, push that one into major worries category!), sunburn, or a venue being difficult. Small risks include scarce or incorrect food, or counselors not doing their job well enough. The leader needs to be someone who will proactively solve minor problems and won’t freak out if things start to go wrong. I would put a type 2 person in charge if possible and send a type 1 and type 3 for counsel in emergencies.
  • We run several theme days at camp where we transform camp into a particular magical world. This summer one of them was Spooky Halloween themed. These days are planned out over several weeks and incorporate sets, costumes, vignettes, an overarching story line, and often several completely new major activities. The biggest challenges include practical assessments of progress-to-goal in terms of set, writing, and costume construction and lack of buy-in from campers or counselors. For a team of people running one of these days you want a type 3 in charge of the day, with assistance from a type 2 and type 4. You would want the type 2 person to help push the timetables and a type 4 person to help with a lot of the creative engineering of the day. Keep type 1 people busy on smaller, goal-oriented tasks that let them feel stability and believe things are going well, don’t let them near the brainstorming meetings if possible.

Over time the people who you manage will change, and it is important for you to look over your team regularly and make sure that you have all four of these types of people represented. Depending on your workplace, it may also be important to stack the team with more of one or more types of people since you know more situations will arise that call for a particular type.


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