In part one of this two-part episode, Andrew Nelson and Chris Picarde share how they managed to restructure client delivery teams using the Predictive Index—a talent optimization platform. We go behind the scenes to show how Silverback Strategies coordinates across teams of technical experts, strategists and creatives to generate leads and revenue for clients. We cover:
- Setting a strong cultural foundation
- Balancing skills -vs- attributes
- A new way to organize teams around clients
- Team personalities and their strengths
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John Tyreman: Hi gang. Welcome to The Digital Marketing Troop, where we go in the trenches so you can learn more about digital marketing. I’m your host, John Tyreman, and today we are going to change things up a little bit. In 2021 our organization, Silverback Strategies, went through a pretty major change in the way we structured our client delivery teams. Recently, we hosted a moderated Q&A between Chris Picarde, Senior Talent Optimization Consultant of Predictive Index, PI Midlantic, and Andrew Nelson, President of Silverback Strategies, where we talked about our experience going through this change. And this is part one of a two part episode, I hope you enjoy it. If you want to see the full video of the webinar, go to our resource center at silverbackstrategies.com and let me know what you think on LinkedIn. Alright, here comes the interview. Have fun.
John Tyreman: Yeah, like I mentioned, Chris, Andrew, I’m super pumped for our conversation today because it goes beyond silos and in fact this conversation lives at the crossroads of human resources, technology and marketing. And today will challenge the traditional siloed departments structure. Chris, in your experience, optimizing people performance, I guess let’s start here. How common is this siloed organizational structure been like working with these companies?
Chris Picarde: It’s very common. It’s very common because if you look at the birth of most organizations, they start out, most start out flat, right? And as they build out their functions, they tend to become more siloed. It’s a natural progression because it groups people who have similar knowledge and similar skill sets together, right? Accountants do accounting, SEO does SEO and PPC does PPC. The main advantages of that are, it really does offer higher levels of specialization, right? You’re getting dedicated departments of specialists who have a specific skill or a specific niche. They’ll get things done quicker. Okay, more efficiently. But with strengths come weaknesses. The most common disadvantage of siloed organizational structure or functional organization structure is that it tends to not breed collaboration or communication with other functions in the organizations because they’re so siloed in their own goals and their own objectives. The other big thing that we see is they struggle to understand the greater vision of where they’re trying to go because of some of the reasons I just stated. So that’s why we’re beginning to see this cross functional nature consuming all forms of work. Look at sales for example. The days of Alec Baldwin in that boiler room set up – they’re gone. It’s a much more complex environment. Sales involves sales operations, sales enablement, sales engineering, data people, marketing and field marketing, your sales reps, so it’s becoming much more of a team sport than it’s ever been before, which is leading to that shift. So in my work with you all and my work with other cross functional units, the cross functional setup tends to promote that collaboration, promote the communication across different teams, but there are some areas that we found, specifically two, that we found that tend to, we tend to see performance, we tend to see execution suffer. The first is lack of understanding around expectations and accountability around the executions because you’re having subject matter experts coming together to have to work together towards a common goal. The second and most important in my opinion is the awareness issue. In teams, we have experts coming together, all different walks of life and different skill sets, different backgrounds and we’re having to try to promote them to work together towards a common goal objective. So, the team really needs to understand the needs and the values of each other. For example, one person may be focusing on new business development within the team, while the other may be focusing on execution and delivery. Both are critical. We need both. But a stylistic difference could potentially diminish that collaboration in the execution of our assignment.
John Tyreman: Because Andrew, you know, the digital marketing landscape is changing so rapidly, and you’ve seen Silverback grow quite rapidly, especially over these last few years, and there’s a strong emphasis on company culture and the people at the agency. What have been some of your guiding principles in how you approach building teams within the agency?
Andrew Nelson: We have gone through quite a bit of change. Our industry not only goes through a lot of change but our own organization, just has gone through a lot of change, as we’ve grown rapidly, but in particular, the past year and a half as we’ve reached new thresholds of growth. And so this is really my first foray into what’s traditionally called Change Management, but I’ve learned a lot along the way and one of the first things that I figured out was the need to have principles. So I love that question about guiding principles. So we actually spent a considerable amount of time and resources. It took one or two years to really nail down what our own company principles are. That can sound really fluffy to a lot of people, but it was critical in nailing our team structure. So I think we actually have a slide with those principles on there we go. So principles are different for every organization. Here’s the ones we came up with that Silverback: evolving isn’t optional, it’s essential. Collaboration isn’t encouraged, it’s expected. We don’t embrace change, we drive it. And the insights, experiences and perspectives of others makes us stronger. So there are really two specific ways that these principles guided how we built teams. First is in the actual structure, like the bones of the team itself. How many people are on the team? What are the roles of those individuals on the teams? What are the expectations of those roles and how they work together? Our principles need to be embedded into those hard facts from the beginning. So making sure that the way it’s built, is built to drive, in this case, maybe collaboration or built to drive innovation. So there really is kind of a structural component to principles. And then on the other side, and where predictive index really steps in, is understanding the people themselves that are coming together. When you start hiring based on principles like we do, you start to learn very quickly that people are going to exhibit some more stronger than others, just naturally. And when that happens, and you try to make a team out of these people, if you’re lacking the awareness of those strengths and weaknesses, you potentially have gaps where maybe a particular principle is just not there on that team at all. For example, we hire a team of five people, they’re all excellent, they exhibit all of our principles to some extent but they’re all weak when it comes to empathy. That team is now going to be completely weak on empathy, and that is going to be a huge challenge. So we really try to understand our principles from the structural side, as well as the individual side and make sure that we are balancing them, as well as building awareness like Chris was talking about, amongst the team members of where maybe there are strengths and weaknesses.
John Tyreman: And understanding how these cultural principles play out at the individual level, this is really where I think the predictive index has really helped Silverback out tremendously. And Chris, I’d like to ask you about that so the predictive index technology, it leverages behavioral science to identify different motivations and what drives people. Can you shed a little bit of light onto these PI profiles and why they’re important to team dynamics and performance?
Chris Picarde: Yeah, of course. And critically important. It’s a team sport, right? But you win the battle one individual at a time, one strategy at a time. And you can see here that we tend to group individuals into 17 different reference profiles but there’s millions of combinations right? We’re not all the same, we have different behaviors. So, understanding when two people have opposing drives and preferences that naturally leads to stylistic differences and a tendency to not meet one another’s needs. So for example, on here there’s a maverick reference profile. If I’m a maverick, I’m all about innovation, I’m all about agility, and tend to treat everyone just like me. But if I’m working with risk averse process and detail oriented people, I’m not going to naturally meet their needs, because they’re not like me. And this can become a source of frustration amongst the team. Also from a leadership perspective, we tend to punish people for what God didn’t put in them. Instead, this gives us a roadmap to embrace what they did and minimize the time spent in areas that don’t play to their strengths. So, in my opinion, the key to great team dynamics, especially on cross functional teams, isn’t just recognizing those differences but actually celebrating those differences because they can balance out how we make decisions, how we view risk, how we solve problems. For example, on this call, John and I, and even Andrew to an extent, have very similar profiles. So when we tend to take on the… we tend to take the same approach to solving problems, for example. We like to talk it through with the team, bounce ideas off of each other, collaborate, get a consensus, try to find ways to make it work, but without awareness of the styles, of the preferences and tendencies of others on my team, we’re likely to get frustrated when someone is questioning our ideas or finding ways in which it wouldn’t work. But in actuality, that’s very valuable, right? What if we’re going down the wrong direction? What if our ideas are stupid? What if there’s something that we haven’t thought of before that can help us plan to make sure that we’re mitigating the mistakes that we make along the way? So for me, understanding the profiles is critical to improving the working relationship in cross functional teams, no matter how similar or different you may be
John Tyreman: Andrew, recently you’ve been leading a major organizational change, you mentioned earlier as your first foray into change management in Silverback and how client delivery teams are structured. And this is really an evolution from the traditional department structures to what we call troops. Can you give our listeners an overview of what troops are and why Silverback is making this change?
Andrew Nelson: Absolutely. And frankly, it’s the same story that Chris told earlier about how organizations change over time. So here’s our story. When we started 12 years ago, we really were a specialty shop, we offered one service. And over time, that service grew and we brought on other complimentary services. And what happened is we had a very flat hierarchy, and that’s really what you’re looking at here. There are teams built around core competencies, you end up having a specialist who reports to another specialist who reports up to the specialist. Great for really, really strong product expertise, they’re working with other product experts all day every day. But there are a few challenges. If you think back to the principles that I shared, a couple of them were evolution and innovation and collaboration. And we work in digital marketing which is changing all the time. So this structure starts to create some barriers to those principles. Once you get to a certain size, it’s very very difficult to coordinate this many people, to get them to collaborate on every single client. It’s very difficult to make a change in a department because you kind of have to rebuild the whole machine that’s supporting just that department – it’s too slow. So we asked ourselves, what if we build teams not around core competencies but around client portfolios. Not a crazy idea in the world of organizations or even advertising but a big change for us. It hadn’t been how we did it for the first 10 – 11 years. So visually here you can see these are small teams. Each dot represents an individual and these are small teams of cross functional specialists. You’ve heard Chris say that. So you see the different colored dots, each representing a different specialist, and each of those small circles shares a client portfolio. And there’s just a ton of benefit to this: one, collaboration is built in from the bottom. I mentioned structural, so if these people are all sharing the same clients and they’re on a small team, it means they’re meeting weekly to talk through every single plan, they’re all working on each other’s work. So collaboration is just inherent in the system. Two, evolution. These small teams are able to test and innovate and try new things much more quickly, because it doesn’t have to necessarily cascade through a larger machine in order for them to try something, so a lot more innovation occurring. And obviously, it enables us to bring on resources to really focus on the client relationship which has been great. So yeah, that’s been a big shift for us and it’s gone really well and in part because of the way that we’ve paid special attention to our principals and the individual team members through PI and behavioral analytics and using some of those tools to help really create these teams, because this really is all about changing teams.
John Tyreman: I think our listeners can start to see how these building blocks are starting to build on each other. We’re talking about organizations, we’re talking about individual profiles, working together in these different kinds of cross functional teams. Chris, I’m relatively new as a PI analyst, and the individual personality types, they make sense to me. I mean, they’re very similar to some of those other personality software types out there. I think it’s a lot more, it’s much more involved, but when I discovered the concept of Team Types, and each team having its own personality, that took it to a whole new level. And this is interesting because in the troop example, each troop is its own little mini organization. Chris, can you give our listeners an overview of each of these team types and perhaps some examples of how different team types can thrive under different scenarios?
Chris Picarde: Yeah of course. So if we’re looking at a tech startup right? Tech startups are about innovation, new business development, or about agility; they’re focused on growth. Whereas, if you’re looking at a hospital, their teams are focused on compliance, standards, etc. So a great leadership team for running a tech startup, probably not going to be the most effective for running a hospital. Our CEO always states this line: “Is your talent aligned with your roles and is your talent aligned with your goals?” So, the same way we reference, we use reference profiles to help say I’m a persuader, I’m a collaborator and that tells you immediately something about who I am and how I operate, team types are the same way. It creates a common language around the strength and tendencies of the team as a whole. Not so much the personality, because within the team there are different personalities, but when you put a collective mix together, it’s going to give us an understanding of the strengths of the team as a whole. So an example, looking at your team types, actually, one of your – you have three troops, two of them are exploring teams, one’s a cultivating team. An exploring team and I think we have a picture of an exploring team on here. So this is an example of one of your exploring teams. They’re risk tolerant, right? They move fast, they’re about the future, uncertainty and all that great stuff that comes with it. Well, your cultivating team is built different from that. So what this team does well and their strengths, may be harder, may require a conscious effort for your cultivating team to do. And a good example of working together with Silverback was, I know you were building out the standard operating procedures for, I believe it was the troops client delivery, and what that looks like. Well, it was really easy with these team types to say, “Hey, I think this troop, meaning the cultivating troop, is probably better suited to execute on that task”. And I think we have a picture of the cultivating team. If you’re on here. Yeah, I mean they collaborate, they’re great with follow up, professional development and consistency and they’ll follow through on tasks. Whereas you’re exploring team’s built a little bit different. We’re not saying exploring teams can’t do that line of work, they can, right? We all have the ability to flex and adapt and do things that are out of our comfort zones. But that’s not their natural tendency, Therefore, it’s not going to be their highest or their best use of time for the organization. People work better when they’re playing to their strengths, the seams with teams. So team types really helps us give us an understanding of which team’s designed to execute on certain tasks and which team may have a tougher time, so we can position accordingly, and be more effective with our use of time. Okay. And when you look at organizations, you stated John, in the question, that troop is essentially a mini organization. Well, an organization is made up of a bunch of mini teams that all have different strengths, that all have different needs, right? So team types is important to help us understand the common language and what each team’s bringing to the table so we can utilize that to our advantage.
John Tyreman: Curious Andrew, do you have any other thoughts on these team types and what’s been your experience with this?
Andrew Nelson: Oh my gosh. So going through this change, where we’re building a cross functional team, it requires that team to do several things at the same time as a whole. Sure, individuals are focusing on different things but ultimately, every single troop, which is kind of a sub organization, needs, and I’m looking at the screen right here, it needs a high level of teamwork, it needs a high level of innovation, it needs a high focus on results of discipline and it needs a lot of process and precision, especially while we’re going through this change. It requires all four of those things for these teams to successfully help create this new model and make it through the change. So, yeah, I mean just looking at this team right here, I’ve seen this in our own meetings. Great at making consensus, great at supporting each other, they’re really really good at that. But one of the big things we’ve had to change are our processes that you mentioned, Chris. We have to completely change the way work is delivered since they are collaborating in new ways. This is a big shift for the organization that requires – If we don’t want to waste a lot of time we better figure out what those processes are and get them down on paper and start working against them very quickly. This team in particular, that does not come naturally to them. They are, I’m sorry I’m mixing my examples up. This team is really strong with consensus right? So in addition to creating new processes we really need to be challenging each other right now. We really need to be able to, instead of wasting time on something that doesn’t work, just because we want to build consensus, we have to be willing to step up and say I’m not sure that’s the right direction to take this or I think we should try something else. We need to create healthy conflict right now to make it through this. And this team, it does not come naturally to them to create healthy conflict. They would rather build that consensus and find a way to get everyone to agree instead of actually embracing the conflict to challenge each other. So we’ve done a lot of team building with this team in particular, to try to help them build the psychological safety needed to challenge each other openly and to be okay with that kind of conflict. We were able to kind of tweak their needs based on basically their team type. And then John, if you can go back to the last example really quick. This is where I started going down. This is the team that’s gonna have a hard time with process, this is the team that’s going out there shooting first, asking questions later, which is great for innovation and we need that. That’s exactly why we’re building these troops. But I mentioned the importance of process. We better figure some of that out so that we can scale. We really have to challenge this team to do that. We have to be more strict and explicit around what they need to do in terms of coming up or following a process. And that helps them because they’re able to do it more easily with a bit of that extra support. So kind of from a leadership perspective, I guess, is where I’m speaking right now. Understanding the resources that you give each team and how you’re going to guide each team is really dependent on those strengths and weaknesses of that team. And this was a great tool to help uncover those.
Chris Picarde: Just build on what Andrew just said, I really like how you approach each team differently in terms of development around areas that don’t come natural to them, because what you’re essentially doing is you’re making problems preventative, not reactive, right? Which is something that a lot of teams miss. So addressing areas where we haven’t experienced that yet but down the road based off the strategies we’re trying to drive, right? For example if you have this exploring team that’s responsible for putting standards, putting procedures, that’s what we call a stabilizing strategy. Can they do it? Yeah, but it’s gonna be harder, right? So having these conversations and planning these stopgaps are going to help prevent issues down the road.
Andrew Nelson: And what we have found, I mentioned this earlier with the cross functional teams, is they’re not as easily defined in terms of their goal, because they have individuals who have different goals on the team but ultimately what the team is trying to build, and what the team is trying to achieve, ends up touching each of these things a little bit. Um, and so there is a, I can’t just build a team of all innovators who only innovate all day because then the troop would never deliver results which they need to do to be a self-sufficient mini organization. So, this requirement is even amplified when you talk cross functional teams because they’re not as neatly divided into what’s the one goal that this team has – more is required of them so that awareness becomes even more important.
Chris Picarde: This plays to that right? You can say, looking at this team who’s built a little bit differently just off the visual, and it’s clear if you go down here, the person, (Oh, you can’t see my mouse), in the process and precision quadrant, they’re built a little bit differently, right? So their ideas, their perspectives, it could throw the individuals in innovation, in those top quadrants, off. But they’re what we like to call the balancers, right? They bring a well balanced perspective. If we have all innovation and agility people, then we’re thinking one way. But, what tends to happen amongst teams is those balancers, in this case the individual in the process and precision, they step in, they put their two cents, they push back against new ideas and now they’re viewed as the outcast. Well, this gives us an appreciation for that skill set and says, “Hey, this is where we’re going. But here’s how we can plan for that. Here’s what could go wrong along the way”. More importantly, we did talk about how the troops have an identity. The team type provides that. But within the troops, we have different individuals. Well, if I’m having to put standards in place right, if I’m having to approach high levels of detailed work, I want to look at the individual in the process and precision quadrant. They’re more likely to drive that outcome, even though my team is heavily built for innovation, for agility, thinking at that 30,000 foot level, not so much in the weeds.
Andrew Nelson: There’s one other way that… just really piggybacking off of what you said, that we apply this and on one hand, it’s awareness, and on the other hand it’s getting people the work that they’re good at, so we use goals pretty heavily. We have goals across the troops and we have goals within each troop. And so whether you’re talking about a team type or an individual within a team, one of the things this troop right here that we’re looking at has to work on is refining their processes. They can now loop that team member in, and maybe make them the owner of that particular goal for that quarter – “Hey we need to build some processes. Who’s best to lead this? It’s going to be the process person and let’s make sure they’re really at the table and helping us drive that because we’re not as good at it, because we’re aware of that, and they’re going to be able to do it better than us”. So it’s first building that awareness, and then when you have goals or you have direction, aligning your resources with the work that needs to be done. You mentioned, aligning roles and… what is it?
Chris Picarde: Is your talent aligned with your roles and is your talent aligned with your goals.
Andrew Nelson: Yeah, exactly. So that’s what we were able to do here. Because everyone’s chipping in to the success of the team, we can say, “Okay, hey get the process person in for this, get the innovation person in for this. Let’s get someone to help us measure some KPIs”. We need that results first and then here to crack the whip a little bit, you’re really able to put it into use.
In the final part of the episode, Andrew Nelson and Chris Picarde answer audience-submitted questions about how they managed to restructure client delivery teams using the Predictive Index—a talent optimization platform.
John Tyreman: Hi gang. Welcome to The Digital Marketing Troop, where we go in the trenches to help you learn more about digital marketing. I’m your host, John Tyreman, and you’re listening to a bonus episode this week, part two of our webinar recap with PI Midlantic: Smashing Silos, How To Build High Performance Teams Of Cross Functional Experts. To catch you up to speed, in 2021, our organization, Silverback Strategies, went through a pretty major change in the way we structured our client delivery teams. We use the Predictive Index, a tool that uses behavioral science to optimize talent performance to build those teams. Recently we hosted a moderated Q&A between Chris Picarde, Senior Talent Optimization Consultant, at Predictive Index, PI Midlantic, and Andrew Nelson, President of Silverback Strategies, where we talked about our experience going through this change. This is part two of the podcast. Hope you enjoy it. If you want to see the full video, go to the resource center at silverbackstrategies.com and let me know what you think on LinkedIn. All right, here comes the interview.
John Tyreman: Perhaps this is my own curiosity getting the better of me. What I’d like to do is go back to these team types, and Andrew, how do you approach matching team types to client personalities? And what I mean by that is, there are some clients that may have more of a reserved personality and maybe they’re not willing to take the risks that they should with their marketing, so perhaps an exploring team may be a good fit for them to offset that. Or perhaps there’s a client who’s very quick to draw the gun and shoot at something when maybe they shouldn’t, maybe they should take more of a reserved approach. So, does that factor into building these teams and assigning them to different accounts?
Andrew Nelson: Yeah, absolutely. It’s, and frankly, it’s the same process you take when you analyze what does it mean to put two team members together, what does it mean to put two team types together, what does it mean to assign a team type to a client type. It’s a very similar process. It’s about awareness, and then aligning strengths and weaknesses as best as you can. So it’s interesting John, because it’s both – there’s both sides of the coin here. On one hand, when it comes to client types, I’ll compare a… let’s compare a D2C brand, right? You think about your Casper mattresses right or all these D2C brands that are popping up. These are highly funded, extremely high growth companies who need to break everything they can to grow and to try new things and innovate very quickly. Then you might have a regional retailer that’s not seeking to add any new stores, but is looking to really just hit their ROI number and be consistent and get through the next year, especially with everything that’s been happening with COVID and so much that’s already been changing in their worlds. Two very different needs from clients. I would say that the first thing that we want to do is really actually align the team type. So if someone has that high growth need, we want to make sure that they have an exploring team type. Someone who is going to naturally push the boundaries because that’s really what that client needs to be successful as a business. Whereas when you have a more, you know, I’m looking at the stabilizing team type here. That’s going to be necessary for a client who’s maybe not necessarily as growth oriented but is much more looking to grow their revenues through efficiency. That’s going to be a more stabilizing team – how can we, you know, optimize down a little bit and incrementally improve performance. So there’s a whole behavior of clients to behavior of account managers that we also look at but I think the most important thing is understanding the business model and the business needs, and how do you align the right consultants to that business need. There’s a personality factor with the consultant, but there’s also just their skill sets that we look to as well. We have several people who have the experience and their behavior also tends to line up with that kind of innovation D2C track record so we’ll make sure that they go get on that team because they can totally slot that need that the company has. So there’s a lot of ways that you can take it but alignment’s really important.
John Tyreman: Chris, anything to add?
Chris Picarde: Yeah, you hit the nail on the head there. I mean it’s important you have to understand what are the strategies of the clients, what are they trying to do ,what are they trying to solve? You don’t want to assume that going into it right? So we want to understand what is, what are their goals, what are their objectives and which team do I have that is built to drive them in that direction. So if I’m exploring, if my client has an exploring strategy and they really need that innovation and agility and I assign a stabilizing team to them, it’s gonna come a little bit harder. So I think you hit the nail on the head.
Andrew Nelson: I really want to point out what Chris keeps saying, it’s going to come a little bit harder. What I have found personally with predictive index is just because someone’s not in an innovation quadrant or just because someone is an exploring team, it does not mean they cannot stabilize, it does not mean they cannot build process. But the awareness of the fact that it’s not their natural strength, it makes it easier for them to do that job that’s not more naturally aligned with them. When you can build alignment, it’s great, it’s hard to do, and it’s not even necessarily always the best move. What’s important either way is that the awareness is there. If you address the awareness issue, you could probably overcome anything. So I think it’s important to not take it too far, and to, you know, try to put everything into a box and make it black or white. Chris, we were talking about it earlier but, I find the awareness to be one of the most powerful pieces of all of this.
Chris Picarde: Yeah, agree. I mean it’s the most important competency for leaders to develop is, “Hey, what am I good at and how can I utilize the strengths of those around me to bring up where I tend to fall short or doesn’t come naturally to me”? So we’re not saying you can do it, right? But what we are saying is let’s limit the amount of time that we’re putting this innovative and agile individual in a highly conscientious, detail oriented environment.
Andrew Nelson: Or at least give them the resources they need to be successful in that environment.
Chris Picarde: Right, or how do I manage them to give them what they need to keep them motivated in that environment.
John Tyreman: This is some really very interesting, very involved approach and methodical approach to building teams. But what I want to do is I want to go back to this, this troop visual for a second because I think that this is a really great illustration of this transformation that Silverback has gone through over the course of this year. And this has been a process. This isn’t something that we said, “Okay, you know what, let’s find the personality types, snap our fingers and boom, we’re in troops”. This is something that’s been very methodical, it’s been thought out, which is a process in a transition. So Andrew, I’m curious, what changes did we have to make in order for this transition to launch successfully? And then what do you see as the next steps for Silverback and continuing this evolvement from departments to troops?
Andrew Nelson: So in some ways it’s changing everything and in some ways it’s changing nothing. And what I mean by that is some things don’t change at all. The principles that we outlined to begin, haven’t changed one bit and are actually stronger, and even more integrated than they were before. The core audience that we service, the core value that we provide hasn’t changed one bit. But we’ve been able to amplify through this type of change. So those types of things have not changed at all and in fact have only gotten stronger. Some of the things that have changed are some pretty critical things, right? So we’ve had to, as I mentioned earlier, completely change our processes for how people work together, and how we understand utilization of our own resources. That’s been a huge shift for us. We’ve had to completely, I mean when you’re changing all the teams you have to rebuild the team health within each team. So there’s a huge amount of team health focused team building that has to occur to make these teams strong since you’re going through a change like this. It’s starting to trickle into sales. We’re starting to really change the way we sell our services, the same services, but delivered in a very different way and so that’s really impacting everything: sales, pricing, utilization, team health and people management. It impacts our finances because of the way that we now have to understand how those resources are being allocated. So really everything across our organization and project management and process, every single thing is going through a change right now.
John Tyreman: Very good. Very good, thank you for that. Okay, well, why don’t we turn to our audience Q&A. We have one question here from Mary and this is for, I guess, Chris, you could take a first whack at it and Andrew if you want to chime in as well. “Marketing applies to a wide range of Arts and Sciences, which naturally attracts an eclectic mix of personalities. Compared to other organizational functions, how challenging is it to find the right personality type for marketing roles?”
Chris Picarde: So going back to that line I stated earlier, “Is your team aligned with your roles and as your team aligned with your goals?” Jobs have behaviors and you want to understand what are the behavioral demands of that job so we can put people in the roles that match that. So we want to start out first and foremost by looking at what are the consistent behaviors required to be successful in this role. Do we need people to be outgoing, engaging, sell themselves or sell their ideas well? Or do we need them to be a little more heads down, analytical, creative problem solvers? So first and foremost is, what does the role entail? And let’s make sure we’re bringing them in there to match that – that are going to be motivated, that are going to be engaged by the work that they’re doing. But then it’s really understanding what are the goals of the team, what are the goals of the organization and what are the strengths that those employees bring to the table? So, we talked about team types. If you have a stabilizing team type, and we bring in a maverick, we bring in somebody who’s big picture, I mean that’s somebody I want to lean on for innovation, for agility, for new ideas and thinking outside the box, if that’s what our goals require. So, marketing, to say, what do you look for in marketing, particular… It’s a very broad question because you guys are the experts. As you know, marketing has shifted significantly throughout the years and it continues to and there’s a wide range of roles involved in making it happen. So broad question, but I would say first and foremost, get the right person for the role that has the skill set, that has the behaviors, and then create an awareness as to what are we trying to drive, what are our strategies getting there, and utilize the strengths that that person brings to help us drive that.
Andrew Nelson: So, to help piggyback – you know getting a little more into the marketing side of it, you know, Mary, yeah, marketing roles… What we have found as an agency over the past decade is marketing requires a team of different unique abilities in order to be able to pull off the art and science right? That’s just the blunt example that it requires no two, five, ten people to be able to do any single thing. So the challenge is less than finding the individual role within marketing because those can be clear cut. The harder part is developing the right team to execute what you’re trying to execute. That is what we found, which is why we’ve gone the direction we’ve gone with troops is because we’ve realized the specialist is the easy part. The team is the hard part.
Chris Picarde: And I will say, marketing, just because of the nature of it, it tended to really leave the industries in cross functional collaboration and building cross functional teams, because of the nature of the work that needs to be done in everything Andrew said. But we’re now seeing a huge shift, like I talked about with sales, where there are different industries, different departments that are following the marketing lead. So I will say marketing kind of spearheaded that charge but we’re starting to see more and more follow suit.
John Tyreman: Yeah, I’m curious and we’ve got a couple other questions coming in. One’s related to troops that I think is a nice segue from this first question. /thinking through, you know, in marketing, you’ve got creatives who may, you know, lean towards one or two other personality types but then you also have SEOs and analytics folks who may be a completely different personality type so there’s really that wide range. Mark asks, how would the troop structure work in a functional area with infrequent change for example, like finance?
Chris Picarde: Yeah I think that when you look at functional, organizational structures and specialized departments, you tend to find the behaviors are more consistent and look similar, right? So, we use terms overlapping styles and contrasting styles, and their strengths and cons to both. Well if you have a lot of overlapping styles, I mean people are built the same way, they think the same way, they act the same way. So we’re not getting a well rounded perspective, two different approaches. Right? So the example I talked about with us three and how we like to approach problem solving, that’s great. But what if this requires a high level of introspection and really thinking through and, you know, a high level of analysis? That’s not our forte. Right? So we’re missing out on other perspectives when it comes to that. So Andrew, I don’t know if you want to build on that because you went from more of that functional to cross functional.
Andrew Nelson: Yeah, and we really are a hybrid model so not every department in our organization is within a troop and finance is an example. Our finance team is not does not actually have a member within each troop. Our troops are oriented around client delivery. That’s exactly how we have it. This is why process is so important for us to answer and really specifically here. There are key points in the process, where finance and the troops need to interact, and it’s important that we document that makes it easy to follow. So, for example, our finance team needs to share troop financials with each troop so they have a process and at a certain point they will go ahead and integrate and back back out. And then there’s a certain point where clients need to be billed right? So troops need to then integrate and touch over to finance to make sure that the billing and the contracting is all set. So, process is really the way to make this work and to remove the complexity, but we are finding it entirely possible to have departments that in our case are oriented around client delivery, not live within a troop, but still be able to get integrated when needed.
John Tyreman: That’s really great. Andrew and Chris, thank you. And it sounds like the process needs to be thought about from a different perspective given that this is a completely new model so we’re going to need to have new processes that we may not be able to find elsewhere.
Andrew Nelson: You have to reinvent the process.
John Tyreman: Exactly. Which can be a tough task. Well, here’s another question from Jennifer who asks, and I believe this is pointed at Andrew, but Chris, please feel free to chime in. How are you handling the labor shortage and holding out on hiring the right personality, behavior, skill set to build your ideal teams?
Andrew Nelson: This is a great question. So, the labor shortage I think is impacting just about every single industry right now, us included. That being said, this notion of holding out on the right hire, the right personality, behavior, skill set to build your team – skill set is one thing since we really do require technical knowledge, unless we’re hiring entry level. That’s a hard one to overlook but when we’re talking personality and behavior, which to me is very PI oriented. And I mentioned this earlier, we go out to hire, with an understanding using the PI tools of what our ideal types are but when you build that job description within PI, you’ll notice there’s ranges for everything. You’re not, it’s not that a person has to be this exact fit for it to work from a behavioral personality standpoint. Because as ingrained as personality behaviors are, they are also something that with just a little bit of awareness are also very malleable. Awareness is a big assumption there. So I would actually… that has not been a limiting factor for us in terms of finding the right talent, because we are able to take people who maybe aren’t as innovative as we would hope they would be, and help them become more aware of that and give them the resources and to help get that innovation out of them because we were aware of it in the first place. I hope that makes sense. Labor shortage is definitely affecting us but not necessarily from the behavior and personality side, more so from finding the right people with those right specific set of skills, especially for a more technical industry like digital marketing. That’s where there can be a challenge. I see Chris nodding so maybe he’s seeing this in other industries but I have found the behavior to not be as limiting.
Chris Picarde: Yeah I think more what it does for you is helps you understand what areas do we need to develop right? As it pertains to what is their operating style and how are they going to mess with the team and as a manager, how can I get the most out of them, how do I communicate to them in a way that’s engaging? And when you look at positions, right, one of the things we evaluate is are we looking for a high level of skills and experience, or are we looking for the behavioral piece. What are we putting more weight on? If we’re hiring for a surgeon, right, and they have a perfect PI, perfect cognitive score but they’ve never been a surgeon before, that’s probably not a good fit. I’m gonna want to avoid that. Right? So we want to kind of break it down. Is this more of a knowledge and skills based role where we need people to have the background and the experience, and then the PI will help us understand how to manage, how to motivate, how to work with them and get better team dynamic, or is this a position where we need somebody with the right behaviors? You know, think of a front desk receptionist at a hospitality resort. If you have somebody that’s very aggressive at the end of a long shift, they might have a tendency to snap at a client that pushes back right? So that’s more of a behaviorally based role where you can teach them the skills and knowledge that’s necessary to do it. So in Silverback’s case, yeah, I think Andrew spoke to it, you’re looking more for that skills and the experience and the what have they done and where have they done it, and then P is going to play, have a greater presence on the back end.
Andrew Nelson: And I actually know Jennifer, who asked the question and I know that she helps run a marketing team. So, in my experience, sort of for width marketing, that tends to be the case. In digital marketing especially, it’s so new and it’s innovating so quickly that there’s a lot of people who talk about it that can’t actually do it. And so finding a person who can actually do the thing is harder than helping to train to the behaviors or helping to support those behaviors and get them where you need them on the team. That is a lot of good just leadership and a good team building and team health and having a great people team to support us to help make that happen.
John Tyreman: That’s great. Well, we’ve got another question from Wellington, who asked, “The slides that show the types of teams developed, are they developed based on real research or specific software tools?” It sounds like Chris, you might be able to answer that one.
Chris Picarde: Yeah, it’s a software tool that’s based on real research. So our predictive index is our corporate team and they have a large number of data and IO psychologists and they build out what we call team discovery which breaks down the different types of behaviors you tend to find within organizations. And it helps you understand what type of team are we, and then when we didn’t get into, which is the next step in that process is, what are the strategies you’re trying to drive when we put it in people terms so we can see how do we relate to the strategies we’re trying to drive. So short answer is software tool built on research. Yeah.
John Tyreman Very good. And another question here from Miles and Andrew, you might be able to answer this one: “What other tools, perhaps enablement tools, does Silverback use across the organization, to make sure that these teams can collaborate remotely?”
Andrew Nelson: Fair, safe assumption to think we work remotely. I’m clearly at my house right now and while we have an office that people can use if they want to, it is optional. So we really have gone to full remote over the past year. So, you know, just thinking through some of the tools from the most pedestrian things like… we have our Google Drive to be able to work on Docs together, we have our Slack and our Zoom to be able to communicate more effectively. In terms of enablement tools though beyond there, predictive index has been a big one. We’ve really had to transform – I’ll give a shout out to Lattice, they are an HR or people team management tool that helps us with performance management, which actually has become quite integrated with predictive index in terms of helping team members set their goals and grow and understand maybe where their weaknesses are. So Lattice has been really helpful for us from a people standpoint. Um, and then I’ll also give a shout out to EOS here. We really are getting to the size of organization and going through the types of changes that require a lot more structure that maybe we were used to as a growing organization. And so having a toolkit like EOS or I’m sure one of the many other business operating systems would have been helpful as well, but has really gone a long way in helping us all get on the same page. Think about it. We’re a growing organization in a rapidly evolving industry. It’s great that we’re technically savvy so it’s easy for us to use these tools, but these tools are more critical than ever for an organization like us, growing like us, in this industry, making the changes we are. So finding ways to build that consistency.