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Use science of psychogeometrics
Common sense and a healthy dose of experience may tell you the temperament and aptitude of individual members may make or break a team’s ability to work together. The theory of psychogeometrics, based on the science of understanding people and the art of influencing them, can help you build stronger teams that can then solve more difficult problems, says Patty Williams, RN, director of educational services at Blessing Hospital in Quincy, IL.
The theory explains strength in diversity of personality, Williams explains. "By discovering how they process information and approach situations, staff members can recognize the value of each team members’ contribution."
Williams teaches this theory in 90-minute workshops throughout the facility to minimize conflict and maximize communication for both internal and external customer groups. Although the program was originally designed to enhance relationships among co-workers, it has become an integral piece of the patient delivery and customer service training pie. For example, Williams adapted the concept for the emergency department staff who used it to better communicate with their patients’ family members.
According to the theory, everyone has five tendencies or "shapes," but one "shape" will be more dominant than the others:
As logical, linear thinkers, this "shape" is the most organized of all patterns. Hard workers by nature, "boxes" stay focused on the task at hand until the job is done. Their motto might be, "If you want it done right, do it yourself."
"They like rules, policies, procedures, schedules, paperwork, and data," Williams says. "They are the data collectors and like to analyze the data slowly before making decisions."
A box would appreciate a staff member making an appointment, being organized, focused, and sticking to an agenda. "You need to be serious and equipped with data," Williams recommends. "Give plenty of details, allow the box time to prepare and not expect immediate changes."
As natural leaders, these people are typically very ambitious, strong, self-confident risk takers who are comfortable with politics and power.
"They are intelligent people who can process information very fast and consequently make very quick decisions," she explains. "Because they have a tendency to tell others what to do, they have no tolerance for wishy-washy’ people."
Triangles also like to do things their own way, so it’s best not to disagree with them in public. Their motto might be "when I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you" or "Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions."
When dealing with a triangle, speak fast, firm, and get to the bottom line quickly without a lot of details. "Be decisive and maintain emotional control. Keep all communication succinct and make sure it is well presented," she says.
This shape is temporary because it represents people who are in a state of transition such as adolescence, midlife, or retirement.
"They are at a time of change in their lives when they begin to question who they are," Williams explains. "It is a time of growth and introspection."
Realize a triangle may be unpredictable in the response. Be prepared to offer support, patience, and understanding. "For rectangles, present a sure front and insist on a discussion," she says. "Keep it focused and away from emotions."
As people pleasers, nurturers, and caretakers, these shapes are concerned with others’ happiness. "They are typically trusted by many because they are genuine, caring, and good listeners," Williams says. "Harmony is important to these people, and they are uncomfortable with conflict."
Circles are better than any other shapes at reading the non-verbal communication of people, and empathetic and sensitive to the needs of others.
A circle needs to see that you are genuine and needs to trust you. "However, do not allow the circle to accommodate you," she says.
You need to initiate the confrontation and/or discussion, and keep it focused. "Be prepared for hurt feelings and show how a solution will help others," she says.
This shape is best described as sensual, creative, innovative, bright, spontaneous, and impulsive, Williams explains. "They continually have ideas and are experimental. They have a high energy level and talk very fast," she says. "They are direct and honest in their communication.
Squiggles like change and see it as a challenge; consequently, they hate rules, paperwork, and deadlines.
The communication style of a squiggle is often dramatic and emotional, she adds. "They frequently do not feel they fit in, as they truly march to the beat of a different drummer," she says. "Or, they feel as if they fit in; but do not like the way things are, and are consequently working to change them."
Therefore, if your team member is a squiggle, remain calm, yet show enthusiasm and a desire to understand. "Be prepared with your side of the issue because they are very persuasive. Remember they like to have it their way, so explain why their ideas cannot be implemented," she adds.