Case Study 4: Individual Type Styles at the Parks Department
Read the parks department case study and consider the following questions:
- What was the purpose of this individual assessment for this team? What should be the purpose of an individual instrument?
- How did Lori explain the instrument and its meaning? What do you think she did well, and what could have been improved in her explanation of the instrument?
- What activities did Lori do to use the results of the instrument? Do you think these were effective? Why or why not? What would you have done differently, if anything?
- How would you respond to Tai’s question at the end?
- What were the results of this intervention for this team? What did the team learn from this activity? Were the client’s goals met?
The Franklin Meadows City Parks and Recreation Department is responsible for more than 200 city-managed public parks, golf courses, and recreation facilities. It manages the city trail system, open space, summer camps for children and teenagers, and adult softball leagues. Ken is the city director of parks and recreation, and the staff consists of six managers of the major divisions of the department:
- Cindy, manager, public parks
- Tai, manager, golf courses
- Aron, manager, recreation centers
- Tasha, manager, trails and open space
- Felix, manager, leagues and activities
- Rachel, manager, parks rentals and special events
At the department’s quarterly management retreat, Ken decided to conduct a team-building activity. He contacted Lori from the city’s human resources department for ideas.
“I want to do something different from what we usually do, which is an operations and goal review, and then we can all go to dinner,” Ken explained when he and Lori met. “While this team has worked together for about 18 months, and we know each other pretty well, I think it would be enjoyable to mix it up a bit.”
“What’s going on with this team that you think could be improved?” she asked.
“I think interpersonally the team is quite solid,” he said. “I think there’s an opportunity for members to open up to each other, however, which I think always helps to smooth the team interaction.”
“I have just the instrument to help this team. I have recently become certified in the Team Type Alphabet assessment,” Lori said. “It’s a way for team members to learn more about one another’s individual work styles. Once they take the instrument, I will score it and print reports for each of them.”
“That sounds interesting,” Ken said. “Why don’t you send each member of the team an e-mail and let them know that we’ve spoken and you will be helping with the retreat.”
“I look forward to helping out,” she said.
The next day, Lori sent the following e-mail to the team:
Dear Parks Department Managers,
Ken has asked me to assist with next month’s offsite meeting, during which we will spend some time on team building. The Team Type Alphabet assessment we’re going to discuss will tell you what your individual preference is on a team. Please spend 15–20 minutes taking the test on the website listed below. I will provide you with your individual results at our offsite meeting.
At the Retreat
Lori joined the team late in the afternoon of the third day of the offsite meeting to review the instrument with the team. She quickly noticed that the team was a little drained from such a long meeting, but hopefully they would enjoy the change of pace she could bring with the activity. The team was seated around several tables forming a U-shape pattern. Ken motioned for Lori to begin.
“You all remember a few weeks ago when you completed the Team Type Alphabet instrument? Today we’re going to go through the results of that instrument for each of you.
“The Team Type Alphabet tells you what your preferred style is on a team. This does not mean that you always display this type style in every interaction, but it does tell you what your preferred style is when you are part of a team, whether it’s a baseball team or a work team. According to the theory, there are six basic team type styles.” Lori wrote the following on the whiteboard in the conference room:
- Type E: Energy. Desires harmony and cooperation on the team
- Type C: Controlling. Likes to lead and be the focus of attention
- Type Q: Quiet. Observant, sometimes hesitant to get involved in group discussion
- Type A: Assertive. Forceful, ensures that his or her perspective is heard by members of the team
- Type W: Wondering. Asks questions, enchanted by theory and new ideas
- Type D: Detailed. Enjoys examining data and focusing on specific details
“I’d like to buy a vowel,” Aron joked.
“These are just basic descriptions,” Lori continued, “but there’s much more to each of them. There are longer descriptions of each style in your handout. Your report will contain your dominant style as well as your secondary style. I’ll hand these out and give you a moment to think about it.”
The group sat for a minute flipping pages in the lengthy report, quietly reflecting on their individual styles, until Cindy broke the silence.
“Controlling? Somehow that doesn’t seem right. I don’t feel like I always want to be the center of attention. And why is that called Controlling?” Cindy frowned and stared at the team.
“This is all backed up by years of theory showing that these are people’s style preferences,” Lori said. “The research shows that you tend not to change very much throughout your life, though your secondary preference might change slightly.”
It’s just that Controlling sounds like a very negative description to me,” Cindy added, her voice cracking slightly. “I don’t think I always have a negative impact on this team. Look at item 35: ‘I will follow the team’s decision even if I don’t agree with it.’ I marked ‘strongly agree.’ That doesn’t fit someone who is controlling.”
“What’s important is not how you responded on any individual item, but how it fits within an entire pattern of responses on the instrument,” Lori said.
Cindy looked down at the table and closed her booklet. She looked out the window as a landscape worker shaped the hedges outside the conference room.
Lori continued. “Let’s get everyone with a Q style to stand up and go to the right side of the room.” Felix walked to the right side of the room and stood alone facing the team.
“Just one? Okay, now let’s get all of the A types to stand on the left side of the room.” Rachel and Aron went to the other side of the room and faced Felix.
“Okay. Now As, tell me what you think of the Q when you see him.”
“Well, I think Felix is a great manager,” Aron said. “His department has been very effective lately, with a nearly 20 percent increase in league signups this season. And—”
“I mean what do you think about his Q style on this team? Felix, why don’t you tell us how you feel about the As. Do they dominate the discussion?”
“Well, I guess sometimes that’s true.” He looked very uncomfortable.
“I always think this is so fascinating,” Lori said. “The Team Type Alphabet describes exactly how these st\yles play out for us in everyday life. So as a team, what can you do about the fact that you have a quiet member and some dominating members?”
Tasha said, “This is so interesting, because I think this explains perfectly why we sometimes go around and around in our discussions. I mean the As tend always to speak first, and the discussion tends to steer in that direction, but it’s an hour later when our Q gets to speak that we learn so much more and get to a better suggestion because of what his ideas bring.”
“Spoken like an E,” Aron said. The group laughed.
“I’m not an E; I’m a W,” Tasha said, a little defensively.
“Is there anyone who would like to share his or her primary and secondary style type?” Lori asked, trying to refocus the discussion.
“I guess Felix probably won’t go first, since he’s a Q,” Rachel said. “I’ll go.”
“But we shouldn’t let her, as one of the As, dominate the discussion, right?” Tai asked Lori. “Should we make someone else go first?”
“So because I’m an A, I can never speak until others speak?” Rachel asked. “Is that really the point?” Another uncomfortable moment of silence passed.
“My secondary style is a D, which made a lot of sense to me,” Aron said. “It’s really accurate. I do tend to focus on the data, results, and numbers. I actually think that seems like more of my primary style. You guys know that I’m always the one trying to make charts and graphs.” He smiled at the others. “Maybe I need to focus less on the number crunching.”
“Well, everyone’s style is different, and everyone’s style should be appreciated for what it is,” Lori said. “But you should be aware of what effect your different styles have on the productivity of the team.”
“But you’re the expert in this instrument. Based on what you know about our styles and this team, what do you think we should be paying attention to?” Tai asked.
The team looked up at Lori in unison, waiting for her response.
Note: The instrument described in this case study is fictional.