By Steve Twydell, CEO, 3T Group
What child (or adult for that matter) hasn’t dreamed of having a super power? X-ray vision, superhuman strength or the ability to read minds would all come in pretty handy in business. When assembling a management team, MDs and business owners will be looking for specific talents and strengths, and whilst the ability to fly may not be high on the list of key skills, a combination of superhero traits could be highly desirable.
Every superhero has their own individual persona and specific gifts, as well as the odd flaw. The key in business is to know your team’s talents and weaknesses, creating a management team to rival The X Men in terms of strength and diversity. However, the truth is, when recruiting or promoting, people are often drawn to those who have similar characteristics or outlook to themselves. However, for the good of the team, the business and your customer, it’s best to achieve a balance.
Using the superhero mind-set is an increasingly common technique in business designed to stimulate a more creative approach to problem solving. Try thinking like a superhero and consider how Superman would solve a particular problem or how Spiderman would put his spidey senses to use? Ultimately, you are asking people to think in a different way, which may initially result in some off the wall ideas which can be filtered and moulded into something plausible. For example, if you have a problem with a particular customer, Spiderman’s solution might be to ensnare the key people within his sticky web, resolving the issues by gathering them all in the same room. You then need to decide how best to go about doing this.
Which superhero are you?
At the 3T Group we have developed the superhero concept further, determining where we are on the superhero scale. Discussions with staff, particularly those on the frontline, as well as many of our customers, identified three main superheroes within our organisation: Superman, Batman and Ironman, all of whom have defined characteristics, talents and flaws.
Superman — raised by humans, Superman is all about love and protection. Possessing a strong sense of idealism, he wants to protect people and help the human race. He operates within the law and is driven by the desire to give back.
Batman — a much darker character, heavily influenced by witnessing his parents’ murder. Batman, AKA the Dark Knight, has no superpowers but is driven by an indominitable will and a fierce determination. When Batman gets involved, the job will get done, but there may be extensive collateral damage.
Ironman — the product of a later age, Ironman is something of a genius and is all about sexy tech. A problem solver with a high level of intelligence verging on arrogance, he uses state of the art technology and his highly developed brainpower to resolve problems. However, despite his outwardly sociable playboy persona, he finds it difficult to form meaningful relationships.
The importance of balance
If you work within the logistics industry like us (or any other service industry), many of these attributes are highly desirable, but it’s important to have a balance. If your company is staffed almost exclusively by Superman types, your customer service will be expansive and generous with a strong relationship based on reciprocal appreciation. However, it’s highly likely that the customer will eventually start to take advantage. Furthermore, maintaining this level of customer service is simply not financially viable.
A company with a high proportion of staff with a Batman persona, will have a great reputation for meeting deadlines, overcoming obstacles and delivering on products and services - but may do some significant damage in the process. In our industry, this might mean that deliveries arrive on time but the truck wiped out half of the dispatch area on arrival.
Technology is key to the success of many businesses so maybe Ironman has the answers? Unfortunately, the trouble with Ironman is the classic IT expert’s failing of assuming that everyone is as clued up as they are. “It’s easy, just press these 37 keys, that yellow button over there and this one third from the left and it’s all sorted - what’s the problem?” Meanwhile, the user looks at the screen in horror as they struggle to make sense of the complexity. As technology specialists we firmly believe in the power of IT to transform operations, but even we recognise that that it’s not within everyone’s comfort zone.
The reality is, if as Superman you may be taken advantage of, if you are Batman you deliver on time but the customer will be unhappy due to the collateral damage involved whilst Ironman may leave the customer feeling bemused and possibly offended by their air of superiority.
So what’s the answer? Ultimately, it’s all about balance. Get in touch with your Superman side to make the customer feel valued, but balance this with a few Batman personalities to ensure that everyone complies with the processes. However, it’s important to encourage innovation if you want to stay ahead of the competition. To do this, you will need some Ironman characters to provide the technical brilliance and best practice that makes you stand out from everyone else.
Here at 3T it’s taken almost a decade to create the right balance and we now have three distinct departments. They may not have taken their individual superhero’s s name, but imagine our Account Management Director in red underpants over his trousers, the black cape of our Customer Service Director and the Account Development department in their metal suits and you’ll have a good idea of their superhero identities.