Challenges come in all sizes and 'shapes' - Business Works

Challenges come in all sizes and "shapes"

Gary Newborough


anagers are increasingly challenged to develop strategically flexible organisations in response to increasingly competitive marketplaces and an ever-pressing need to achieve more with less, brought about by global economic conditions the like of which have not been seen before.

New generations of information and telecommunications technology have provided the foundation for resilient new organisational structures that would have not been feasible twenty years ago. The virtual team, for instance, enables organisations to become more flexible by providing the possibility of team based approaches in environments where teamwork would have once been impossible.

Virtual teams, which are linked primarily through advanced computer and telecommunications technologies, provide a potent response to the challenges associated with today’s downsized and lean organisations, and to the resulting geographical dispersion of essential employees. Virtual teams also address new workforce demographics, where the best employees may be located anywhere the world, and where workers demand increasing technological sophistication and personal flexibility. With virtual teams, organisations can achieve optimum membership whilst retaining the advantages of a flat organisational structure. Additionally, firms benefit from virtual teams through access to previously unavailable expertise, enhanced cross-functional interaction, and the use of systems that improve the quality of the virtual team’s work.

Inventors tend to think of the value of communications technology in terms of effects of efficiency and productivity. Organisations purchase these technologies - for example telephones, e-mail or intranet systems - on the basis of anticipated cost-efficiency. However, enhanced communications technologies also create added challenges. These are less to do with efficiency and more to do with changing patterns of interaction, work process and social organisation. The telephone for example was invented as a tool for business and justified as a more efficient telegraph. The added social effect was enormous, creating telephone-based jobs and services, and allowing families and friends to live apart and yet feel close together.

In many cases the benefits and impact of virtual teams have not been fully realised. How can I manage them if I can’t see them? is a cry often heard. To take full advantage of the potential of virtual teams, people and organisations must develop specific skills, insights and knowledge. Significant investment needs to be made in addressing the basic challenges of how human beings communicate. Technology changes what people attend to, and how they depend on and relate to other people. This impact can be more significant and long-lasting than the impact of the technology itself.

Dr Susan Delinger

Enter Dr Susan Dellinger. An American who has spent a lifetime studying human communications and helping organisations increase their effectiveness by firstly enabling individuals to define their preferred communication style and then examining the styles of others and learning ways to enhance effectiveness. Her system has led to sweeping improvements in communications for more than a million people worldwide. In fact, Dr Dellinger has been called upon by many of the largest corporations in America to implement her unique method of understanding human interaction. Clients have included Federal Express, IBM, Andersen Consulting, American Express, United Airlines, PriceWaterhouse-Coopers and Chevrolet Motors.

Psycho-Geometrics® is a simple yet effective tool produced by Dr Dellinger using geometric shapes (Boxes, Triangles, Rectangles, Circles and Squiggles) to define a distinct set of characteristics that in turn define a “communication style.” Reading your client’s, colleague’s and prospect’s, preferred style and then communicating with them in a way that makes them feel more comfortable can significantly enhance the effectiveness of virtual teams.

In the fast-paced and highly competitive industries of today, you are the epitome of organisation, commitment and dedication to the established project management process. In your world you are the consummate manager accepting no less than neatly typed agendas, as well as supporting documentation on all pending government regulations, available system functionality and related cost analyses for the funding of new projects. Throw in some executive mandate to keep costs down while still increasing revenue and you’ve added one more layer of seemingly insurmountable requirements for you to conquer. And conquer you will … if it weren’t for those idiots on your team!

You are behaving like a classic Box Manager. Boxes are linear thinkers who want their work to be organised and predictable.

Those crazy highly creative and spontaneous people are known as Squiggles, they are your opposite type. According to Dr Dellinger, they can drive a Box, absolutely crazy. The solution? You must do your homework in advance, on these and all the other personality types that will be assigned to your team, and take the appropriate precautionary measures.

Working online proves an even greater challenge as it fosters the feeling of communicating with a computer and not with other human beings. This can lead to a loss of self-regulation - manifested in angry or abusive online communication which is quite unlike how the person would behave face-to-face.

Your only hope is that your boss (or client) exhibits strong Triangle traits by bullet-pointing the main facts to consider, issuing a directive at the critical juncture, and facing the legal advisors head on to come to a “business” decision when needed. There is no doubt as to why Triangles hold leadership positions – they have no problem making a decision, even when they aren’t asked to. Note: The Legal Department is often oblique in their advice; just providing lots of data to consider. That’s why most lawyers are Boxes. They are there to advise, not to make decisions.

So now you look internally to other avenues of support. These other avenues usually lead to sharing resources and/or gathering information from other projects or departments. The cross-pollination with other groups then entails dealing with another line of business, which may or may not have room on their prioritised list of initiatives to squeeze you in this quarter or even this year. Enter the Rectangle. Now you send your naïve Rectangle “rookie” into the fray. These people are the best listeners. They are open to new ideas and non-judgmental. They will gather the information needed and bring it back to you. Since Rectangles are just learning and adapting to a new job situation, they have no idea what to do with the info, but, luckily, you do.

Knowing you must increase revenue while maintaining low cost allocations, you begin to look around to see who to blame. Maybe if the Squiggles, those creative types who make these masterpieces used less colours and graphics they might not end up being so expensive? (Luckily, we Boxes have an eye on the budget constraints and the Triangles love to remind people of the Bottom Line.)

When everything ultimately breaks down under the requisite deadline pressures, communication comes to an abrupt standstill between the linear task-masters and the creative Shapes. What you really need now are some highly skillful Circles to bridge the gap between the two groups and encourage everyone to play nicely together. Circles are the people who act as catalysts to bring conflicting groups together. They are the good listeners and negotiators. Their purpose is to craft a compromise and they are the experts in this.

In a weak moment, you may wish everyone else was like you, but STOP ... think about that. Each of the five Shapes brings a special gift, without which companies could not function and projects would lay fallow.

After all, once the team has worked through all the challenges to arrive at what can actually be done, each Shape will have done his/her part. The Box will have done the homework and organised the data; the Rectangle will have collected and gathered the sensitive information, the Circle will be the mediator when people disagree, the Triangle will make the final decision, and your beloved Squiggles will be the ones to work their magic on the end result to create tag lines, inserts, brochures, and all other sorts of marketing bling to attract those consumers who ultimately pay the salaries for us all.

Time, effort and bandwidth are often wasted in online conferences and forums that are stillborn because the organisers overlook basic principles of need and relevance, and are unaware of the special techniques required to sustain online dialog. As with all online collaboration and communication, organisations must make a learning investment in order to reap the considerable business value.

For further information please contact Gary:

What Shape are you? To find out, just take the new ONLINE TEST and get more information on Dr Susan Dellinger’s Psycho-Geometrics® System, by visiting Use the special coupon code “drsusan” to receive a 40% discount.

Gary Newborough spent more than 20 years with British Telecom PLC as a management trainer and Head of the BT Management College in Manchester. This was followed by a brief spell as Chief Executive of the Chamber of Commerce in Kent. Returning to Manchester in 2004 to develop and maintain relationships between the public sector and the top 100 private sector employers.

Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management, Fellow of the Institute of Administrative Management and a Member of the International Association of Career Management Professionals.

The First Psycho-Geometrics® System Consultant in the UK, he is highly regarded as a communications expert. He now divides his time between people and organisational development and running The Market Restaurant in Manchester’s Northern Quarter which he bought in January 2008.

There are four UK based Psycho-Geometrics® Consultants covering the country Jon Coleman, Lex McKee and Debbie Green. They can be contacted via: An introductory workshop is being held in Manchester in November. Please email for further details.

Please note: Psycho-Geometrics® is fully copyrighted and trademarked intellectual property and may not be presented without permission of the author.

Tweet article
BW on TwitterBW RSS feed