Why your staff can’t all be Superman

Written By Reagan Nyandoro


Business man superhero question marks shirt

The 3T Group’s CEO Steve Twydell explains the role of the superhero in business.

Who hasn’t dreamed of having a superpower?  X-ray vision, superhuman strength or the ability to read minds would all be useful talents for the busy company director, department head or transport manager.  When assembling your staff team, the ability to fly may not be high on the list of key skills, but a combination of different superhero traits could certainly come in useful in the logistics industry.

Every superhero has their own individual persona and specific gifts, as well as the odd flaw. The key is to know your team’s talents and weaknesses. When recruiting or promoting, we are often drawn to those who have similar characteristics or outlook to ourselves. But for the good of the team, the business and your customer, it’s best to achieve a balance.  After all, too many superpowers can be actually be a bad thing.

Change your mind-set

Using the superhero mind-set is a relatively common technique in business designed to stimulate a more creative approach to problem solving. So, if you haven’t already done so, give it a go.  Identify a problem within your business and consider how a specific superhero might resolve it? This requires people to think in a different way, which may initially result in some off the wall ideas. However, these can be filtered and modified to suit your purpose. 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.  Once you have identified the solution, you just need to decide how best to go about doing putting it into practice.

The power of three

At the 3T Group we have developed the superhero concept further, determining where we as a company lie on the superhero scale. Discussions with staff, particularly those on the frontline, as well as many of our customers, has enabled us to identify three main superheroes operating within our organisation: Superman, Batman and Ironman, all of whom have much to offer, but with a few provisos.

Superman – raised by humans, Superman is all about love and protection. Possessing a strong sense of idealism, he wants to help the human race. He operates within the law and is driven by the desire to give back.

Batman – a much darker character, the Dark Knight actually has no superpowers at all but is driven by an indomitable will and a fierce determination. When Batman gets involved, the job will get done, but there may be extensive collateral damage along the way.

Ironman – 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, he can find it difficult to form meaningful relationships.

Ironman vs. Superman vs. Batman

Working in the world of transport and logistics 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 your generosity will be taken advantage of somewhere along the line. Furthermore, with the ever tighter margins that our industry operates within, maintaining this level of customer service is simply not financially viable.

If you have high proportion of staff with a Batman persona, you will no doubt have a great reputation for meeting deadlines, overcoming obstacles and delivering on products and services – accompanied by some significant collateral damage.  For example, deliveries may be punctual but your truck wipes out half of the dispatch area on arrival.

As specialists in technology we naturally champion its importance in logistics, but we recognise that despite his formidable problem solving skills, Ironman demonstrates the classic IT expert’s failing of assuming that everyone is as clued up as they are. He is likely to say to colleagues “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. There’s no doubt that IT can radically transform operations for the better, but we ensure that we have staff on our team who recognise that it’s not within everyone’s comfort zone.

So, as Superman you may be taken advantage of, if you are Batman you deliver on time but with damage along the way, whilst Ironman may leave the customer or your staff feeling bemused, and possibly offended by their air of superiority.

Achieve a working balance

So what’s the answer?  Ultimately, it’s all about balance.  By all means include some Superman (or woman) personalities on your team to ensure that customers feel valued, but balance this with a few Batman personalities to ensure that everyone complies with the processes. And remember, without innovation you will almost inevitably fall behind your competitors, so you will need some Ironman characters to provide the technical brilliance and best practice that makes you a market leader.

Here at 3T it’s taken almost a decade to create the right balance. As a result, we now have three distinct departments, each overseeing their particular area which includes customer service, processes and technical innovation. They may not have their superhero’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 their superhero identities may not seem so secret after all!

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