cup-of-tea1-734x1024As a coach, the Human Synergistics circumplex is one of my favourite tools to work with. It is made up of 12 different styles; four constructive, 4 passive defensive, and 4 aggressive defensive.  The goal when working with the circumplex is to move from a defensive space to constructive space and ultimately become more effective. I love this tool because when people apply it things start to change!

One of the stumbling blocks, however can be the language around the circumplex. Personally I was a little baffled by terms like ‘humanistic encouraging’, ‘self-actualizing’ and ‘affiliative’ prior to my accreditation, but once the penny dropped and I ‘got it’ my world changed and I saw myself and others through a whole new lens.

When I understood what the constructive styles really meant and learnt to apply those more often I found my approach to work and life shifted dramatically. I now know that it is ok to relax and enjoy the process of delivering great work by being “affiliative” (my natural strength) whereas in the past guilt would encourage me to achieve through pressure and stress… “isn’t that what gets results?” I thought… “Achieving things can’t be this much fun… can it?”

From my experience the affiliative style commonly confuses people, I am often asked “what does it even mean?” The word itself means to bring into close association or connection.  Affiliative people take the time to get to know and connect with others. They enjoy establishing strong emotional and social ties that are based on trust, integrity, and meaning.  Being affiliative is all about the achievement of tasks through people, and enjoying the shared journey. When you think: affiliative, think: warm, friendly, approachable, open and easy to know.

What excites me most about this style is just how quickly it can change things when applied. Let me share an example; recently I met with a couple of middle managers who were on a mission to lift the culture of their team and in turn influence the culture of their entire organisation. They wanted to start a movement from the ground up. So here’s what they did:

  1. They re-built the foundations within their team
  2. They re-launched the organisational vision, mission and values
  3. They got the team aligned with an agreed code of conduct
  4. They got buy in by everyone agreeing to hold each other accountable, and…
  5. They reached out to every corner of the business and invited other teams to join them for morning tea!

Each of the actions had a significant impact, however it was the results of number 5 (the morning tea) that really blew them away. By inviting other teams to take part in a focused discussion over a cuppa they were able to bridge gaps and break down silos that had been in place for 7 years or more. They gathered valuable information which shone a light on opportunities for improvement and they created great trust and a sense of team across boundaries. Essentially they changed their world by being affiliative!

These two managers discovered that building relationships, asking questions and taking the time to get to know others changed the other team’s perception of them, and it changed their perception of others.

Isn’t it amazing what you can conjure up over a cuppa!