Experience and purpose: On how to bring out the best in your team

Experience is an 11-letter word that means many things.

It means that someone was able to apply certain knowledge that he read or learned somewhere, which he internalized and, finally, became a part of him. It means that we’ve developed the ability to detect patterns in a problem or situation and can get ahead with an appropriate reaction or solution.

Experience, in other words, makes you better and more efficient at what you do — but it can also be an obstacle.

The paradox of experience

If experience is not combined with an apprentice attitude, it can blind you to certain stimuli; it can hinder the reading of new symbols, signs and patterns. Knowing so much can turn you into someone that no longer has the ability to feel.

In the consulting industry, as in many others, there tends to be a hierarchy that governs the relationships between people without experience (juniors) and experienced people (seniors). In an average environment, this hierarchy is hard and ruthless, the person who knows is senior and the junior can just go get the coffee…

And that is a shame.

Experienced people have a main strength, which focuses on the ability to quickly identify the crucial details that make a project successful and act effectively on it. But they also have a significant weakness that has to do with losing sensitivity towards the general aspects of a project. They tend to be more accustomed to the routine that their experience has molded, and thus lose sight and emotion of what they are doing.

On the other hand, people with less experience have the main strength of having a fresh sensibility to the general aspects of a project and its potential impacts; they’re more excited and hungry for its development. But, due to their lack of experience, they tend to be less equipped to identify the details and factors that can determine the success or failure of a project.

The horizontal model

At Cirklo, we are committed to combining people’s skills with different levels of experience to ensure the success of all the challenges we set for ourselves. We know that the key to achieving this is a horizontal model.

The horizontal model fosters a relationship and decision making process that is less hierarchical and based on collaboration among people of different experience levels, gender, profile, etc…. It sounds easy, but it’s a great challenge.

To achieve a functional horizontal model requires significant effort from both the people who consider themselves experts as well as those who don’t. Both sides have to be open to listening to each other, working together, building and questioning; they have to be willing to become a team that understands and recognizes the other’s skills and strengths, without letting the ego and professional fear get in the way.

And there’s no better way to enable this than a clear and well-defined purpose within the organization.

The success factor

There’s a unique and key ingredient that can prompt successful collaborations through the horizontal model: the purpose.

What drives the formation of effective, resilient and cohesive teams is the creation of a work culture around something that goes beyond capital benefit, aesthetic, egocentric or intellectual pleasure… And it’s also what allows us to build organizations that generate economic profits, as well as the much-needed benefits to society and the ecosystem.

Let’s make something clear… if a company is to stay alive, it has to generate economic profit, this is the fuel that allows it to go on, but it’s not enough to make sense of its existence… Nor is it what motivates its employees to wake up in the mornings, deal with traffic and get to the office with enough energy to collaborate with their colleagues and do amazing things. That is only achieved through a well-defined and tangible purpose.

The power of purpose

Cultures that solely focus on generating economic profit tend to use individual benefit as a primary and exclusive motivation (i.e. if you reach X level of sales, you earn X bonus), which naturally ends up creating a vertical environment where each person seeks to save their position and continue growing, resulting in inefficient collaborations since they are born out of an individualistic rationale.

At Cirklo we believe that — step-by-step — we can work towards transforming the system we live in into something more human, conscious and sustainable (we recently got certified as a B Corp, which proves that we focus on actions beyond words)…

I don’t know if we’ll achieve the change we’re looking for (unlike the purpose, the latter can evolve with time), but I know that this purpose drives us to overcome our differences and listen to each other more, to leave aspects such as our level of experience aside and collaborate, get to work, and move forward.

In conclusion… Having people with experience is important and useful for any organization but only when combined with a diverse and collaborative environment can it reach the unattainable.

Believe me, I’m living it.

What about you, do you know why you get up for work every day?

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If you want to learn more about how to establish healthy dynamics within your team through the development of a meaningful culture, contact us; we’re waiting to hear for you at Cirklo.

*Special thanks to Susy Tort (who I am years ahead of experience-wise) for her support in writing this article.


Originally published at medium.com on November 23, 2016.

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