In this blog post, we are discussing project management behavior styles for teams. Over the last year and a half of Prowess data, we see that Project managers are 30% more likely to have a Conscientious personality style and Stakeholders/Managers often have Dominant or Inspirational (learn more). This can lead to slowdowns in the workflow because of how the two communicate information which in turn breeds anxiety and frustration in work relationships.
At Prowess, we eat our own dog food. Early in our journey, we realized that we too were falling into this trap. Our goal for this story is to highlight a real-life example to uncover workplace anxiety during project feedback loops that are never talked about.
Project: Prowess Portal (check it out here)
Differences in feedback communication
When it comes to providing feedback and action items of a project Ashley likes to do a mind dump on in outline form. Her DiSC trait is Inspirational meaning her ideas flow out fast and detailed. The sooner she gets them out of her head and on paper, the better.
Leah is a Conscientious personality so she likes to map out how her data will look before she ever puts fingers to keys. She prefers it laid out in an Excel sheet or a tool like Trello. Her Conscientious DiSC trait means she likes to have roles and deadlines assigned, values feedback to know she is meeting expectations, and a method to explain what she was thinking (or why she made a mistake). Her preferred feedback method may take longer but all the who, what, why and what’s next is in one tool.
How this workflow story plays out in real-life
- I sent Ashley the link to the new portal for Prowess last night and not hearing back is making me worry that it is not at all what she had in mind.
- When I open Ashley 2.5-page Google Doc in outline form with all her thoughts and feedback my stomach drops. – “wow, that is a long list of things she does not like.”
- I start highlighting indenting, adding colors to organize the workflow, and realize, most of this is clarification and questions rather than critique. I admire Ashley’s marketing brain and realize I should have explained the user perspective from which I need feedback.
- I abuse the comment feature of our Google Doc – I prefer a tool to separate from this my feedback. The thought occurs to me to use Trello as we do with other projects but since she put feedback on this outline format that is probably how she wants so I will try and make this work.
- By the time I reach the bottom of Ashley’s outline I realize it’s lit up like Christmas lights and not at all organized into a project workflow but I send it back to her and hope it answers her questions and I will just start an excel doc to break down what actions I need to take.
- I know she has reviewed it because I get a: “Hey, can we hop on a call?” message (queue the self-doubt messages)
- I spend 1.5 hours preparing to redo the back and forth comment in a spreadsheet to “better organize” because of the original word document.
- Even with a shared screen to review my Excel sheet we spend 10 mins of a 30 min meeting just explaining my thought process in how I set it up.
- Now we have two documents and neither one is best suited to assign who is responsible for a timeline, and feedback.
- Mid call I bring up that maybe we should be using Trello and let her know I can have the board set up by tomorrow morning to review on our daily huddle call.
- We are now 24 hours off schedule because I did not make this suggestion in the first place. Lovely.
- Shit – I’m late getting Leah’s feedback on the portal already. I set aside time last night but a last-minute deck needed to be pulled together and that took priority.
- How does my calendar look today? Cool, I have an hour from 2-3 pm. Blocking off time then to get it done.
- 2:15 pm rolls around. Ok, turning off all alerts and focusing on Leah’s portal.
- I open the portal – looks AWESOME! I’m so impressed Leah was able to pull this together, but hmmm… is no context. Who is the user? What perspective should I give feedback from? Because this can be complicated, I organize best via an outline in a Google Doc. I can have a parent bullet for each user-type.
- An hour and a half later, I have put myself in all the shoes of all user-types and provided feedback on all. I review quickly to ensure that it’s semi-coherent, add a few more comments, ideas and clarifying questions,
- Ok, done. Sending to Leah.
- On to number 73 of my 145 daily to-do list and haven’t thought about the portal since.
- A day later I receive the feedback doc back from Leah and wow, it’s color-coded and highlighted and now I’m not sure how to answer her questions about my original questions. I Slack her – “Hey, can we hop on a call?”
- Leah scheduled the call for later in the day. She shares her screen and she has moved all of the feedback to an Excel doc. This file is a straight-up masterpiece. It’s so beautiful. I think I get it but on a deeper look, did she transfer over all my notes? What about the comments on my comments? What about those ideas I had for version 4.0? I ask Leah to walk me through it.
- 10 mins into a 30 min call I finally get it. Yup, everything’s captured. Awesome. Leah then comes up with a great idea. We should put this in Trello. Oh duh! We put all projects in Trello. Good call.
- Leah offered to transfer this excel doc to Trello. She’s a godsend and I’m thrilled that the project is finally getting started. Ok, on to the next thing…
Leah spent just as much time debating on if she is overstepping to just put Ashley’s feedback in Trello from the start.
Ashley couldn’t care less where she needed to record the feedback, she wants progress and has already moved on to the next item on her to-do list.
What could make this more efficient?
A strong team will have a plan for learning and communication styles to address how personalities work best together from day one. Here’s three steps on how.
Step 1: Establish the learning and communication style that takes precedence.
- Because Ashley is the decision-maker and works best moving quickly and diligently, it is established that she will provide her information in either a quick phone call or a Google Doc outline that is considered the first pass of feedback.
Step 2: Establish the tools for workflow and communication tools that flex for function and presentation
- Because Leah works better breaking down data as she receives it, it is established that it is her responsibility to put the information straight into Trello. Because Ashley’s notes did not say “Don’t put in Trello yet” she can trust that this is a natural part of the process.
Step 3: Encourage the conversation when our behavior style is not in alignment and resolve quickly by reflection back on the existing plan.