balance perspectives

How to Balance Perspectives and Personalities at Your Design Firm

9 min read

At Laura U Design Collective, our team is multidisciplinary. From their hometowns and cultures to their education and hobbies, our team members come from a variety of different backgrounds. Diverse perspectives and different viewpoints are an advantage for many design firms. They help us respond to a variety of client personalities, come up with creative solutions to complex problems, and foster a unique firm culture. Diversity also prevents us from falling victim to “groupthink.” Groupthink often leads to stagnation and suboptimal decisions – both of which can have devastating effects on firms operating in creative industries like interior design. According to Craig Phillips in an article for PBS’ Independent Lens, “including group members who have diverse points of view” is the best way to avoid groupthink and its many consequences. While hiring team members with a variety of personalities and outlooks can be incredibly valuable, balancing different employee perspectives can also be quite challenging. In this post, we explain how to balance employee perspectives and personalities so your firm thrives and no one feels neglected. Read on to learn more.

Why Different Perspectives in the Workplace Matter 

Conflict can arise when team members with vastly different personalities and perspectives share their ideas. However, diversity typically helps create a more agile, creative, and multi-skilled firm.

As Allaya Cooks-Campbell writes in an article for BetterUp, different perspectives “contribute to an innovative, inclusive work environment that is forward-focused.” According to Cooks-Campbell, a diverse workforce is more likely to “enhance the brand’s reputation,” “increase employee engagement,” and boast a “broader range of skills and knowledge.”

Is There Any Evidence? Of Course!

As long as everyone on your team identifies with the firm’s mission, vision, and core values, a mix of perspectives and personalities can positively impact your daily operations and financial future. To that latter point, a recent McKinsey & Company study determined that diverse perspectives can actually boost a firm’s financial success. Their 2019 Diversity Wins report notes that “most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability.”

Diversity can also improve problem-solving. A UK-based study referenced by this resource from UNC Pembroke found that “diverse teams outperform individuals about 87% of the time during business decision-making processes.”

Of course, managing a team in which everyone has a different take on the issue at hand can also be more complicated than managing a uniform firm. Now that we have explored the benefits of diverse perspectives, let’s consider the challenges.

How to Balance Employee Perspectives and Personalities Without Alienating Anyone

Don’t Immediately Dismiss an Idea

When it comes to brainstorming as a team, it’s important not to immediately dismiss an idea. Make it clear to each team member that their input is valued. At the same time, ensure everyone knows that automatic dismissal and other rude behavior will not be tolerated.

While some ideas may seem far-fetched or impractical at first glance, there might be a few elements you can apply to the issue at hand. Alternatively, an idea that’s inappropriate for one project might make sense for a different client.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of dismissing ideas that don’t align with our own perspectives or preconceived notions. But by doing so, we risk missing out on valuable insights and creative approaches that could greatly enhance our work.

By valuing and considering these diverse perspectives, you create a more inclusive and collaborative environment where everyone feels heard and valued. You also promote a culture of innovation within your design firm by encouraging open-mindedness and embracing different perspectives. This can lead to the development of new strategies, tools, and methods that give your organization a competitive edge.

Note: While you should not dismiss an employee’s ideas right off the bat, make a mental note if a team member’s suggestions repeatedly miss the mark. They might not be the right fit for your firm. It’s crucial to strike the right balance between valuing diverse perspectives and ensuring that the chosen ideas align with your firm’s objectives.

Allow Employees to Present Ideas in a Variety of Different Ways

Next, allow employees to present their ideas in a variety of different ways. People have different strengths and preferences when it comes to communication, so providing flexibility in how ideas are presented allows individuals to showcase their abilities effectively. Some employees might excel at presenting ideas verbally, while others might prefer visual representations or written proposals.

Acknowledge that more introverted team members might prefer to post on a discussion board, while extroverted employees might enjoy presenting in person. By accommodating different presentation styles, you create an environment where employees can flex their skills, share their ideas, and contribute to the overall success of your design firm.

However, be careful not to outwardly label employees. It’s essential to acknowledge and accommodate different personality types within reason. But labeling someone can pigeon-hole them or cause friction between them and other employees.

Set an Agenda for Meetings

Third, we recommend setting an agenda for certain meetings instead of encouraging free-form discussions each time. As Kathryn Heath and Brenda F. Wensil write in an article for Harvard Business Review, “meetings have morphed over the years.” Many are loose, with ill-defined agendas. By creating an agenda, “sending it out ahead of time,” and sticking to it, you provide space for each team member.

To ensure everyone has time to share their ideas, Heath and Wensil suggest that meeting hosts “exhibit zero tolerance for interruptions.” If interruptions continue, simply remind the offenders that you must stick to the schedule in order to hit each line item.

Hire for Culture Fit

We have often underscored the importance of hiring for culture fit. If a team member does not identify with your firm’s mission, vision, and core values, they cannot possibly be the right cultural fit.

Mutual respect for each other and investment in the firm’s success are two essential values every design firm must hold near and dear. If those are absent in an employee, they are probably a poor fit.

At Laura U Design Collective, we like to say we’re an adult culture. And what I mean by that is that we trust each other, we have each person‘s best interest at heart, and we’re all working for the good of the firm. To maintain accountability to oneself and one’s team, having direct conversations and considering opposing viewpoints is a must.

Laura Umansky, LUDC Founder & CEO, DesignDash Co-Founder

Diverse perspectives can add a lot of value, but if there is a miss-match in vision and values, that person’s viewpoints will not help your firm achieve its objectives or express its personality. Plus, the inconsistency could confuse clients.

Create an Open Dialogue with Charrettes

The term “charrette” is commonly used in an urban planning or public policy development context. In any context, charrettes are intensive planning workshops in which teams are encouraged to think outside the box and bounce ideas off of each other.

Design can be very subjective and personal. It’s important to acknowledge someone’s opinion without making them feel unskilled. We have charrettes with every project to brainstorm freely as a group. This exercise brings everyone’s perspectives into the open forum and allows us to build upon them, not tear them down.

Melissa Grove, LUDC COO and DesignDash Co-Founder

These highly collaborative meetings typically result in a plan that represents each team member in one way or another. Because charrettes are collaborative, no one is placed above another employee. All ideas are considered, with the team weighing pros and cons together in a judgment-free space.

Formalize Brand Guidelines

Next, it’s essential to formalize brand guidelines and make them available to everyone at your firm. Your brand guidelines should explain your company’s brand strategy to employees in minute detail. They should identify audience personas, outline your values, define your tone, and explain how to interact with clients.

You should also provide an employee handbook that identifies appropriate and inappropriate behaviors. Expectations should be clear to all employees.

Exhaustive brand guidelines and employee handbooks provide a framework within which employees can develop their own ideas while respecting the firm’s mission, vision, values, and aesthetics. Not sure how to create brand guidelines for your design firm? Check out this post on the blog.

Schedule Regular Check-Ins

In addition to group meetings and charrettes, scheduling regular one-on-one check-ins can help you balance employee perspectives while eliminating favoritism and the resentment it breeds. These check-ins provide an opportunity for open communication, feedback, and understanding between you and your team members.

Regular check-ins allow you to understand the perspectives and personalities of each employee on a personal level. By taking the time to listen to their thoughts, concerns, and ideas, you can gain valuable insights into their unique perspectives. This understanding will help you create a work environment that promotes collaboration and values the diverse qualities each individual brings to the table.

Balancing different employee perspectives is a challenging task for any entrepreneur. But bringing viewpoints of all team members to the forefront is helpful. We like to have active discussions every week and offer each team member the opportunity to chat about what’s on their minds. The worst thing is letting something simmer under the surface and not speaking about it directly. This leads to frustration and inefficiency.

Laura Umansky, LUDC Founder & CEO, DesignDash Co-Founder

Furthermore, scheduling regular check-ins helps maintain high levels of productivity within your design firm. It allows you to address any challenges or roadblocks that may arise before they become costly mistakes or missed deadlines. By staying informed about the progress of projects and tasks, you can offer guidance and support when needed, ensuring that everyone stays on track.

In addition to promoting productivity, regular check-ins also foster a sense of trust and loyalty among your employees. When they feel heard and valued, they are more likely to be engaged and committed to their work. This can lead to increased job satisfaction and reduce turnover rates within your design firm.

Arrange Outings to Expand Everyone’s Horizons

Even in a diverse, multidisciplinary team, employees can fall into creative ruts. Spending five days a week in the design studio can also limit exposure to different ideas and viewpoints. We love the idea of arranging outings to expand everyone’s horizons.

Schedule historical walking tours, check out an exhibition at your local contemporary art museum, explore galleries, or attend cultural events together. Not only will this expose team members to new ideas, but it might also help them understand and value their colleagues’ perspectives.

Never Let Disagreements Get Personal

One of the most important tips on this list is to never let disagreements get personal. Conflict is inevitable in a firm with diverse employee perspectives, but a difference of opinion should never include insults or inappropriate conduct.

Quoting psychologist Michael Woodward in an article for SHRM, Tamara Lytle writes that “‘unhealthy conflict is when it becomes personal and emotional; then your judgment gets clouded.’” However, positive conflict can actually “‘lead to higher levels of trust.’”

Emphasize Abundance

Conflict tends to become “personal and emotional” when team members either feel dismissed or when they feel like there is not enough opportunity to go around. As Moira Lawler writes in an article for Monster, unhealthy competition often comes from a “‘scarcity mindset.’” To prevent unproductive disagreements, hurt feelings, and a sense of neglect in employees whose design ideas are not accepted, try to foster an “abundance mindset.”

Point out situations in which their idea might work or their perspective might be better suited. In addition, make it clear to each employee that there are multiple ways to contribute to and be heard at your firm. If an employee’s idea has been rejected, ask for their feedback in other areas. Encourage them to help plan your next round of corporate giving, volunteering events, excursions, and more.

Thoughtfully Assemble Each Team

This next tip is fairly obvious but must be mentioned nonetheless. When assembling design, procurement, or marketing teams, think about how each employee will work with the other. Will their personalities mesh? Are their perspectives too different to find common ground?

Celebrate Team Wins and Individual Success

Last but not least, find ways to celebrate shared wins and individual successes. At Laura U Design Collective, we open the floor to our team during Champagne Friday.

Everyone announces their biggest win of the week, but we also recognize team contributions. This ensures everyone has their individual moment of recognition, but it also encourages teams to value common goals.

Join our private Facebook group to celebrate the successes of fellow designers and revel in your own weekly wins!