How to Unite Diverse Personalities at Work

Whether it’s the future of medicine, aerospace, tech, social impact, you name it– the challenges that we’re trying
to solve require teamwork, and the heart of that is communication. But, that’s harder than it sounds, because words often mean different things to different people. For example. – When I say the word professional, what do you think? Well, if you’re from Japan, it might mean that you wear a certain kind of suit, that you eat a certain kind of lunch. But if you’re Italian, the suit changes, and the lunches change. Maybe if I live in San Francisco, I’m gonna be wearing a
hoodie working past 9:00 P.M. None of that’s actually accurate, right? But if we’re just using
the word professional, and we’re plugging in
where people are from, that’s what we’re gonna get. A bunch of stereotypes. – [Narrator] When someone
says they’re a professional, or creative, or passionate, or whatever, we instantly fill in our biases, our projections, our definitions. And those are just a few of the big words that we use at work all the time. Think of how many misunderstandings come from different definitions
that we ascribe to words. So to help that, Mary and David created TeamWords. I used to work with David
at a top design consultancy. He’s brilliant, so is his wife Mary. Together, they help big
companies and universities improve team dynamics. They literally wrote a
book on good teamwork. Books, actually. Team work is one of those things that companies often say they care about, but don’t really spend
the time to cultivate. – Here’s what happens, the CEO says, “Hey, we have this new team, “that needs to go build a product, “and it needs to be done really quickly.” You walk into the room, there’s all these new people, and your bosses boss is there saying, “You have to get working on
this right now, chop chop.” In those situations, the team has all these pressures about having to get
started and show progress, and the thought about
talking about the team before you talk about the work, kind of just goes by the wayside. – When things are going well, it’s really easy to say like, “We’re really honest, “we’re really supportive.” But, as soon as things go wrong, we start to use those words as weapons. The conversation starts with, “I just feel like you’re
being really disrespectful.” Where are you gonna go with that, what can you do with that? – Most problems that come up with teams are failures of vocabulary, and just looking through the deck once, people start to recognize the qualities that they wanna see in a team. – [Narrator] Here’s how to use TeamWords. At the beginning of a project, you bring the team together, and hand everyone a
deck of TeamWords cards. – It’s got dozens of words that describe how people
like to work on teams. Pick three of them that
represent what you want to see out of other people when you
work with them on a team. – Okay, I wanna be on a
team that’s approachable. Open, sure. And I wanna be on a team that’s creative. And you talk about what are the behaviors, actual things that I’m
willing to commit to. – [David] And then bringing that together with everybody in the team, agreeing on just three words that represent how you want
to be working together. – By getting specific about behaviors, everyone on the team can
agree on a common definition for their TeamWords. – You take those three words, you make them manifestive. You put it on a wall and say, “This is who we are, “this is what we’re gonna do.” If you think about all of the time that you save arguing about things later, every minute is a gift. (dramatic music) What’s different now, is teams are far more diverse. People from all over the
world are on teams now, people from all sorts of
different backgrounds. They all speak different languages, there are some people who
have only worked at startups, who’ve only worked at non-profits. We all have to work with all
different types of people. I had somebody tell me that
they picked the word caring, because they realized that
they had never been on a team where they felt like
people cared about them. That’s… Oh, that’s like feelings. (laughing) – [Narrator] And maybe if we can communicate a little better at work, and we can understand each
other better as people, we’ll be on our way to building something even more beautiful. Thanks for watching. If you like this video, please give us a like, and follow Freethink
for more great stories of people changing the world.

4 Replies to “How to Unite Diverse Personalities at Work”

  1. This is a creative way to understand people and realize how you're behaving towards one another. Teamwork is strong when you understand one another.

  2. You can get a copy of the Teamwords deck at — and if you want to use something like this with remote teams, they've posted a free version of it you can use here:

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