You can listen to the podcast and read the show notes here.
In this episode, I spoke with Peter Ivanov.
Michael: Hi. Welcome back to the show and I'm here today with Peter Ivanov, if I'm saying your name right Peter. I think I may have mispronounced-
Peter: That's right. Hi, Michael.
Michael: Hi. Peter is a fabulous expert on virtual teams and has a lot of experience being in business, working with large teams across the globe for more than 20 years and now he has his own business, got a book coming out. What's your book called Peter?
Peter: In German, it's called Power Teams Beyond Borders so in Germany it appears in the end of February. In English, the title is not fixed, but it will be around building power teams across the globe and tackling the toughest problem with humanity.
Michael: Working with other people.
Peter: It says in German, it's like this Power Team Beyond Borders and then this is a story because it's really a story about virtual teams and how they change our world.
Michael: Yeah. Well, and so many companies use virtual teams these days and they have people from different countries in them so there's a lot of challenges in that. I'm hoping you can shed some light on how our business intuition can help in that.
Peter: Sure, sure. I think in terms of virtual teams, you probably need more intuition than the local team because the key characteristic of virtual team is their ability to communicate face to face is much more limited. People are spread around the globe and they just have electronic media, either interactive or e-mail, like offline communication. You probably need to rely on your intuition, on your judgement much more than if you can spend long conversation with your teammates. In terms of intuition and leadership in particular, I myself use it in three areas as a leader, as a manger in the past and now as an entrepreneur.
The first one is when you recruit people and not just people recruit to work for your team. It sounds a little bit like you are the boss and you're calling the shots. I'm a big supporter of more self-organizing teams, so people where the leadership is changing hands and people take the lead at particular points in time of the project, but if you pick your partners or if you'd like to get a new expert on your team, how do you rely on intuition?
I think there are a lot of HR best practices. In terms of scanning the individual, there are a lot of advice of people like Jack Welch, 4Ps, Passion, Integrity and so on. It boils down to the expertise of the person, so he should be expert in the field that your team requires, but also to his personality including his value system if his value system matches your value system and then your team kind of culture and value system, but also his working styles. Sometimes, conflict come on the working styles.
You could do a very systematic work. You could even apply some personality profilers and then scan your candidates and do the homework, which I would recommend you still do because this artificial intelligence and the system and the profile become more and more sophisticated and they could really deep down in the personality. To be honest with you, in my practice, I've always relied on my intuition, on the gut feel, on the feeling when I interview this person, if I kind of feel that we could be a great team together.
There are a few cases when I kind of push myself to ignore it or to neglect it where the whole data, the whole on-paper, the values and the experience and everything look right, but somehow I got the feeling that it will be a good match. Then, one year down the road, we had to part and it was sometimes even painful not because of nondelivery but there were other issues. I think when recruiting people, you still have to do your homework but rely on your intuition. That was the first kind of area. Shall I continue or you have …
Michael: No, I think you think when you're recruiting people to a team or to your company, relying on your intuition to make a good fit is very important because it's very hard to evaluate everything rationally. I'm sure you could have figured out the thing that was the problem with that team member if you'd spend maybe a month analyzing their personality and all the other things going on, but you didn't have that time available you needed to get started.
Peter: That's right.
Michael: That's why intuition is important. It lets you make decisions quicker.
Peter: Intuition is a great asset. It may shortcut … If you don't have the time or if you feel you are very much operationally busy and bugged down in details and a lot of work, maybe this is a signal that you have step back and rely on your intuition. Rely on your intuition when you prioritize. Even step further back and revisit your goals and make sure which goals are right for you, again using your intuition. Stop analyzing for a bit. Refer to intuition or even go back to your strategy because it may be even at this level where you have a problem.
I often do this. I take this, whatever you call it, stepping back days or retreat days just to settle down, cool down and then revalidate my strategy, my goals with my feelings, with my kind of intuition internally. What is intuition? I'm sure it's a subjective thing and people have different experiences. People feel it at different part of their bodies. Some people see pictures which help them to decide. Some people may hear [words 00:06:46] and song depending on the sensitivity, but if we refer back to the psychologist, if we go back to, for example Carl Jung, the famous psychologist, he's analyzing the human personality. He discovered and did quite a research and book that the human brain has four main areas.
We know it's quite popular. Left brain, right brain. Left, which is more for analytical, logical thinking. Right brain is more for feelings and parallel thinking where you could think quick. He even divided front and back, so you have left, right, front, back, four areas, four segments. On the left front, you have the typical planning thinking side, so he calls it the T thinking which is responsible for planning things, analyzing and working sequentially. On the right side, you have the feelings so coated with F. Here, you have your value system. Here, you decide because the right brain you decide quickly based on your feelings and your value system and belief and so on.
Then, if we go in the back side of the brain, on the left side, you have S which is for sensing, which is for details. Here, you really go into details and here some people flourish like accountants or controllers where they could really fly. Then, finally, back right is the N, which stands for intuition. Here is the segment where you see the big picture and you can make calls just based on your, again, intuition or the feeling which can distinguish between right and wrong so for your context and it is quite strong.
Here, he made a lot of research and it turned out that different people have different levels, different areas of their brains developed. Some are more intuitive. For some, the N is very strongly developed. Some are more into details, so they don't trust these internal feelings. They probably don't even recognize them and cannot locate them very well or kind of interpret them. They go into details and then thinking and planning, that's where they get security. There is nothing good or bad here. People are different and with their setup, with their developed way of thinking and brain, they could be successful in different areas.
This is also what a theory says and my experience. If you want to be entrepreneur, you need to have quite strongly developed intuition. You should be balanced. Maybe on the detail side, you can delegate because you can have your controllers and so on, but you need strong intuition, which can help you with your vision and the correctness of your vision. You need strong feeling in order to connect with your team and you still have to be able to plan in order to execute complex projects and drive complex operations.
For entrepreneurs and for senior managers, the balance is important, but intuition is a critical aspect. If you don't have it at all, I doubt you could be a world-class leader. You could still be a successful team leader, and we started with virtual teams not able to lead a large team with different individuals, different cultures spread around the globe.
Michael: Is there any way you've used to measure these different four aspects of the brain?
Peter: Sure, sure. I personally use a profiler called visual questionnaire and I like it because it is language independent. It's based on your own visuals. For sure, it's based on very serious research and German companies behind it and is using it for recruitment of all their, I don't know, probably only in handwork I think. They have 30,000 employees worldwide, much more. This is a visual questionnaire where you could get, in percentage, how much thinking you have, how much feeling, how much intuition and how much kind of preference for details. It takes only 10 to 15 minutes, so it's very quick. Because it's visual, you cannot manipulate the result.
It gives you similar to MBTI, Myers-Briggs Personality Test, so it gives you all this also introvert, extrovert judgmental about the proceeding. Then, you have NTF and S. These are also the Myers-Briggs symbols, but because Myers-Briggs takes this test is based on words and sentences, you could, to some extent, manipulate because having in mind the position you, for example, apply. Whereas with visuals, you just have to rely on your current feeling and judgment. Yes, there is a measure. It is quite accurate I think. Based on that, you get a profile not just on the NTF and S and percentage and preference, but which are your strengths, so which are your weaknesses if you wish, how you behave in complexes. It's quite comprehensive. If you go back in to intuition, if intuition is strongly developed, so you could see particular strengths and how can you leverage on them as a leader.
Michael: Then, how would you use that when you're creating a virtual team?
Peter: I'm using it for my own teams when I recruit new people and I'm using it sometimes for clients when we do a teambuilding. Recently, we did a research. Again, it's academy. One of the business schools here in Hamburg where I'm also lecturing and we took quite a few virtual teams and we ask ourselves the question, which teams are performing better. More homogenous teams in terms of personality or more diverse team. When I'm talking diverse, I'm not thinking about different cultures, the typical diffusional diversity or gender mix or age mix. This kind of diversity is always good. At least, I'm a strong believer and I always try to diversify. We're talking about styles, exactly if you measure a personality.
If you have more, for example, judgmental vibes which are very structured than a goal according to the plan versus perceived people, this is also the MBTI definition. Perceived are very spontaneous. For the structured judgmental, there is a goal and they go for it. For the proceeding, the routes and the journey is the goal, so they don't so much care about the goal, but what happens in between. For example, if you take this characteristic, if there is doubt that the more homogenous teams which you have for example in either more judgmental people or more perceiving people or people with stronger intuition versus planners or detail-oriented, the more homogenous teams consistently performed better.
This is one way to measure. If you have two different styles for a short-term project, it's better, and I say short-term is like could be one year, it's better to have more homogenous personality mix. If you're talking about leadership team whether like five-, ten-year strategic vision, then you have a different style, then you have strong intuitive, then you have feeling, visionaries and you have people very strong execution and a operational aspects.
I'm using it on one hand to ensure either a short-term productivity or long-term strategic mix. Also, if you have a challenge and you know the personality types, it's better to group with people with similar preferences in one group and break down the team. For example, the N people with the stronger intuition, the T people, the planners, the feelers and then the detail guys. Give them the same challenge. You will be amazed, the [master 00:15:15] solution. The proposals will be completely different. One will be, the detail guys will be very strong numerically and logically, although with a lot of detail. The feeling there would refer to the people and the vision and so on. The intuition, for sure, they will drive a big picture thing and many details.
When the team listens to all your proposal and they will do very efficiently. There wouldn't be a lot of debate when they produce their solution. If you mix widely and roughly, there will be kind of productivity loss because of unfruitful debates. When they listen to their proposals, they will be amazed from the different perspective. When they listen to all four proposal, a kind of a unique new proposal emerge based on the four different perspective and you quickly come to the decision. In terms of complex issues or you need to even elaborate on a new product and creative challenge, this kind of mixing different personalities is very good. The strong intuitive people, they always find their home and they will come with a vision or a mission, something very big and elevated. Whereas, the other will come with more operational details. In the end, you will have a rounded result.
Michael: That's fascinating. I think that's a very proper way to use personality tests to make your team well rounded and more effective and I love how you group different personality types together so the team can work more efficiently and yet get more better ideas for solving the problem they're working on.
Michael: We talked earlier about stepping back from the details and you mentioned you do that regularly.
Michael: Do you find that helps you get in touch with your intuition more instead of just always working on the details?
Peter: Absolutely, absolutely. I do it in like two to four months. I do one micro step back once a year normally around Christmas because the business is not so active and I can step back. There, I would just take a holiday, sometimes a full day to myself. I like nature. For me, it's a great trigger to kind of get in contact with my intuition and my spiritual kind of being. Once I cool down, I would go through my strategy and then I would go to a macro plan. Each quarter, what is my focus area. Because I sometimes I like to take many challenges, and this is not necessarily bad, but always have a top three list. I would [distill 00:18:05] my top three priorities for the year and I would map them to the quarter. Normally, the summer time Western Europe is again not very busy period, holiday. I have five kids.
Q1, Q2 and Q4 are essential for my top three priorities. I'm not doing very detailed work there. I'm just kind of evaluating this versus this and I'm listening to my intuition. Sometimes, even new things emerge comes another thing, but this is my macro intuition planning event, which happens in December or in January. Then, every week, again, not to be overwhelmed with projects and details because as entrepreneur you could do as much as you're willing to invest, time and energy I mean. There is always you could do. More marketing and more sales and more product delivery and so on. I consciously, on a weekly basis, normally on Sunday evening, I would see what are my four priorities for the week.
Again, I would evaluate them listening to my intuition. Is this the right thing to do or the other out of the long list. I also have some structure like Mondays now that I've written my book and I will launch it. Monday is my book day. Tuesday is my marketing and partners and sales day so the many calls. Then, Wednesday, I develop new content because I'm teaching in business school, so I have new keynotes in the pipeline where I have to be more creative and so on, online shop. I have some division which may change now probably for January, February over this kind of division. This may change in March and April, but I will review it on a weekly basis.
Then, during the day, if I feel too tired, somehow too bugged down in the details, I would step back. Close my eyes, maybe meditate a bit. For me, as a sportsman, sometimes I do boxing with. Sometimes moving quick also helps to kind of free your head and then go back to the questions. Shall I take this or that and make a call. I do it on three levels, which is yearly, weekly and daily. It helps me out [to orient it 00:20:28]. Whenever I feel a bit too busy or somehow lost, it helps me to step back either to a very active kind of movements or through meditation. I cool down within like 10 minutes and I would review my situation.
Michael: That sounds like a great way to be more productive without getting stressed out, Peter. Do you have any example where your intuition change, what goal you were going to do for the week?
Peter: For example, I mean, evaluating partners because as a keynote speaker I'm meeting a lot of people and they could be potential corporations partner. We could do a joint events or we could do affiliate marketing and so on. For sure, I could not probably do it with all of them. It's just the time constraint, my time and their time, so which one to choose. You have a strategic fit. If you are kind of a complementary and this is we go analytical again. You have complementary products or subject or somehow you could refer to each other, but very often it's intuition call. It's based on the personality of the person. If I trust, we could be successful together. Sometimes, there is no so good fit on what I know so far, but because I kind of like this person or my intuition tells me we could be successful, I invest time. I proactively engage and, yeah, often, it brings results.
As I said, I have examples from the negative ones. When there is a perfect strategic fit and he has clients which may refer me and that could be a great, for me a great business opportunity, but somehow it did not materialize and I kind of knew it intuitively even before we started. Evaluating which partners is often an example of that. I have a tendency also somehow to sometimes to pursue the wrong goals in a sense of I set the goal in the year, early in the year and you'll kind of review and then I go for it, but as the new year goes by I see, kind of reach the point of diminishing returns and it didn't go and I still persist. Maybe it's my sports nature.
Sometimes, I spend quite a lot of effort before I realize you better quit this, park it. Take something new and go forward. For those kind of scenarios, I kind of learning by the year. In my early 30s, 20s and 30s, you have so much energy. You don't care and you just move, but now I'm trying to be more selective. Sometimes, if I feel this is the wrong goal, I kind of think twice and three times and often I may drop it for either a free space or the existing [call 00:23:52], replacing it with something.
Michael: I've had the same experience. I'm very determined to get the goal done, but I didn't always listen to my intuitive messages that maybe it needs modifying or something else is better right now.
Michael: That's a great insight on goals that they need reevaluating. What theme good at the beginning of the year. Six months in may not make sense and the world changes so quickly in business and technology these days. The situation may be different. I may be different. The business is different. The partners may be different. All kinds of things can change.
Peter: Right. Sometimes, it's painful because you spent so much effort and because of maybe ego or something. You may perceive it as a failure. I could not succeed on that one. This is the wisdom. Not to look at it as a failure or as a wrong investment, but listen to what's new and, as you say, dynamic.
Michael: I think one of the things that helps me is instead of treating it as like a goal, it's more like I'm going to experiment with this for certain period of time. Whether it's a week or three months or a year and then that kind of helps me relax. It's just an experiment. I try it out. Not all experiments work out the way you expect them too. Sometimes, they work out better. Sometimes, you do something and you learn something new that I could be doing something even better here.
Michael: However the experiment work out in a goal, I always learn something about myself and my business.
Peter: Absolutely. The mindset is a great enabler and there are lots of books and flow. Mindset that brings you into flow. It's another subject. The more you manage to kind of maintain the curiosity and experiment as you say like playing and so on, this is essential for your productivity. It would protect you from being stubborn and making the wrong decisions.
Michael: I think it also affects how we work with our teams. If I'm very stubborn and judgmental, that's not going to bring out the best in my teammates.
Peter: Definitely, definitely. The more virtual team, the more flexible and curious the leader should be because, again, you don't have the full picture in terms of you see just the messages electronically or Skype screen and so on. The rate is different. You, as a manager, you don't see the reality where this team member operates so you have to really trust. Trust comes with experience. It's again another broad subject. Stubbornness and trying to impose and to micromanage and direction is very counterproductive. Much more kind of catastrophical than the local teams.
Michael: Yeah, it doesn't let you … The other people in the team access their intuition. They're always worried that you're going to be judging them, then it's hard for them to experiment and come up with creative new ideas that might make all the difference of the project.
Peter: Absolutely, absolutely. This autonomy thing as a motivator, again, touching on a broad subject. Key motivators in terms of autonomy being able to make your decision and then mastery being a good learning quickly and then purpose why you do it. Yeah, I mean, intuition, if unless people are empowered and can make autonomous decisions and have decision making freedom, they will be much. Particularly, you have a strong people with strong intuitions and you're the manager, try to make the calls and impose directions, it wouldn't work. Really, the broader [subteam 00:28:12] not just how you use it as we discussed in personal perspective, but empowering people would mean empowering their intuition and giving them a space, time and nonspace to raise their visions and intuition perspective, so your team can make the right call.
This balanced dialogue and discussion is key also in terms of communication. You need the right forms where people could really, everyone on the team can raise not just their issues and their progress but also their feelings and intuition and more kind of strategic input.
Michael: Right. Some of the tools I talked about in my book, ways to evaluate other people without having to meet them in person. I think that's helped in a virtual team because you may never meet them in person.
Peter: Yes. It's a lecture.
Michael: Yeah. Well, I mean, it's great if you can get together with your team altogether in one physical place. That's great. There's a lot more information that can be exchanged, but it's possible to access the information you need using your intuition and some tools to do that.
Peter: I agree. I agree. The best is, for sure, personal event and you could structure it in the best way.
Peter: But as you say, if you cannot, you could still achieve the result and get to the level of even intimacy. Get to know them. Let everybody to know everyone. Not intimacy in terms of endangering your relationships, but deep human, interhuman understanding and relationship. Yes, I agree. There are tools and mindset to get there.
Michael: When I work on a team that really works well together and we achieve an amazing goal, it's an amazing human experience. That's often one of the pinnacles of people's work experience when they work on some project where everyone was connected together. They were all working together for a common goal and they achieved results that other people didn't even think were possible.
Peter: Yes, yes.
Michael: I think that's where your teams and intuition can really help companies to get to the next level with what they do using virtual teams.
Peter: Exactly, so yes. Absolutely. It's, again, another broad subject, but we have teams that I let win two global awards and really the performance was outstanding and we're still in contact and we still kind of share with memories from the times we have together, but it is possible. It takes quite a few things, but yes, if you care about the people, about their personality, let them fault. Everyone feels like a star. You discover the strengths and you publish it and everyone is aware which strengths each team member has and feels like special. It was a lot of recognition. I'm going back to my which is the method for leading virtual teams and you addressed the goal setting, personality and focus, leveraging on the strengths, then building a structured communication and then establishing the optimal.
This in a mix, yes, it's a really exponentially grow performance and achieve much more than the people initially believe it's possible. This is the best award you can have as a team and as a leader of such a team.
Michael: Great. Well, I'm going to share your website with people in the show notes. It's peterivanov.com with a hyphen in the middle there.
Michael: I'll share all the other social media accounts you have as well so people can watch your videos and see what you write about.
Michael: It's been wonderful talking with you today, Peter, and good luck with your book launch both in German and in English. Once you have that link for the English version of the book, I'll share that as well. I've got the German link as well for our German listeners.
Peter: Excellent. Many thanks, Michael. It's been a pleasure and an honor, and I look forward to the podcast.