Hat Heads vs. Bed Heads

by Keith LaFerriere

30 Reader Comments

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  1. Thanks for very interesting article Keith. I like this part of Your article “Adaptation doesn’t just mean change. Adapting is more about being flexible and seeing other points of view.” and “If you’re wearing the right hat, your client will appreciate the effort. Just don’t spend so much time choosing the right hat that you forget to wear pants.” Keep up the great work. Regards

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  2. A very nice assessment.  Some good key points on understanding personality types, particularly within development companies.  I think as the years have gone by, and a significant loss of ego, I’ve come to appreciate the points made here.  That there are big picture people, and detail-oriented people, and knowing how to employ the right talents for the right tasks is critical in fostering both harmony inside the project team and getting results for the client.

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  3. Scott,

    You hit on a great point: results. Whether you’re on a team working on a project for your boss or working on a project for a client, everyone is looking for the same thing: Results.

    I’ve seen some incredible “individual contributors” come together and produce very high-level deliverables by working together in, as you say, harmony. Thanks for the post.

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  4. Keith, great article. I really enjoyed reading it! I understand you are a supporter and practitioner of UCD and just wanted to make one comment for others to chew on – the more I learn, the more I realize the basic premise and goal of User Centered Design is applicable to almost any facet of life. Whether the context is web design or raising children, thoughtful consideration of people and their particular needs, communication styles, idiosyncrasies, et cetera, will frequently, if not always, provide a favorable outcome. This may seem obvious for most of you out there, but in the event that that isn’t the case, re-read Keith’s article with your UCD filter on to see the methodology successfully applied in a relational context. Thanks Keith.

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  5. There it is, isn’t it? The idea that being a good and, more importantly, thoughtful listener will gain you so much in just about any area of your life. Admittedly, I tend to do a better job at this with work than any other place, but maybe that’s because I “expect” tension based on experience.

    Something else to chew on: I saw a presentation yesterday where the principal theory was “Even if someone is really pissing you off, just give it some time and they’ll impress you.” This sentiment was handed down by Jon Snoddy, a leading Imagineer at Disney. I share his belief that everyone has their place on a project, but our job is to make sure that everyone has the same GOAL on a project.

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  6. Do you really believe in the traditional roles/hats? Sounds like the old stereotypes of being creative versus managing. I don’t think this is true or should be true.

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  7. Hi, Andreas:

    To answer your question directly, of course I do or I wouldn’t have written it.

    The unfortunate truth is that until the next wave of thinking (notice I didn’t say “management techniques”) are brought to the highest levels of corporate governance, there will this disconnect.

    The good news? It’s already started. When I hear of projects where the creative director and the client sponsor are having direct and thoughtful discussions in full disclosure, I know there’s hope for a better team experience.

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  8. Keith,

    A thoughtful piece that I see as timeless but adjustable. The relationship itself may someday come to be a non-issue, but your main point about working with personalities is why thought leaders will always remain a commodity.

    Thank you for the article.

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  9. A great teams can be built when the mix of its people is correct from a Myers Briggs or more especially Belbin personality types – you don’t want 30 shapers and plants and no completer/finishers – nothing will ever be finished despite what they say as they will get it working (assuming all inputs are correct & never test edge cases) or keep fiddling until the code is fast/elegant/rewritten using ruby/changed to use PEAR etc etc). Pairing a shaper & and a finisher works really well. I have seen projects fail that have the ‘brightest’ but they are all shapers & plants.

    The trick is recognising these & applying the right person to the task eg give a shaper – the task of creating an initial design – give it to a finisher to review both will be much happier for it.

    This also relates to rewarding staff for good work. As a (very strong) Briggs Myer Introvert I would rather get a private thank you in the bosses office & a letter on my staff file rather than getting a plaque or statue at a staff meeting or awards ceremony – whereas the Brigss Myer extrovert would rather the public pat on the back & a big plaque they can dispaly to the world.

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  10. Hi, Kim:

    Good points on the roles supplied by both Belbin and Myers Briggs. I think one of the largest issues with teaching a team how to work together is that depending on where you work, you’ll be corralled into a large antiseptic environment where a very talented corporate trainer will give you tools to assess yourself and your team, after which you’ll probably feel somewhat enlightened (if you’re a hat head) or somewhat creeped out (if you’re a bed head).

    Corporate training to me is like attending church: if you don’t go all the time and pay attention, it’s not going to stick with you. You should have a core set of beliefs and they can be based on whatever system you desire, but the persistent practice of these beliefs is what will help create better relationships.

    Thank you for bringing this into the fold.

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  11. I love your article and the line you posted about having a core set of beliefs is really why your article is resonating with me over the corporate training thing. When I go to a corporate session, I feel like I want to get out of the room just as fast as I’ve entered. I’m a bed head, through and through, and it appears that you are … both!? Interesting take that I can use for persona-based projects. Those always seem get messed up with conflicting personalities.

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  12. Once in a while different departments in our company will come together for a joint web-related project. And while I’ve never thought about the titles of hat heads and bed heads, I have long thought that there is a disconnect between the marketers and the executives. I’ll have to point the group to this article the next time I’m asked to ‘chair the meetings for the next initiative’.

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  13. Hi, Kelly:

    Try pulling together a smaller group of people that can influence the direction of your project before you get to the main kick-off. I would even suggest that your counterparts (or internal clients) become familiar and a part of the upcoming agenda. Ask them to help you craft it to give you even more of a chance for that first meeting to kick collective buttocks.

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  14. Thanks for the great article!

    I’m wondering if you could comment a little more on ways of dealing with internal projects (as opposed to external clients)? I’m especially interested in your “that guy” situation. What are some ways to keep different groups focused on their own tasks? For example, keeping the marketing team from telling the web team how to build a web page, and vise versa… but mostly vise :)

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  15. Hi, George:

    Thank you! I had a blast putting it together.

    The scenario you mention happens far too often, especially in the internal project arena. But, believe it or not, there’s a reason for this: You are working on the cool stuff.

    There are a few ways in which I’ve been successful in dealing with “that guy”. Here are a few to get you started:

    • Remember that they’re commenting because they care (and a little jealous of your job). Try keeping a level head and listening to the ideas rather than the negativity. Sometimes you can get a great piece of feedback from the strangest and most obscure places. Just remember it’s your area of expertise and very politely explain your position while thanking them for their participation.
    • You need the support of your boss. If you’re in a meeting getting steamrolled by a colleague or a person higher than you, make sure you address it as calmly as possible. If it’s coming from another department, go to your boss and explain how you intend to handle it (don’t make your boss do your dirty work; it’s your responsibility). If it’s coming from your boss, set up a quick chat (try going to lunch to soften the blow and get them away from their desk so they can focus on you and your conversation).
    • Communicate right up front how you intend to run the show. Your work is just as important in communicating the end result. Your responsibility is to manage the visual communication. Without you and your EXPERTISE, the project will fail.
    • Be kind, but be strong. Again, in any situation, don’t let anyone run over you or the team (not that you currently do that, I’m just making a point). If you DO lose face in a meeting, don’t wait. Address it immediately once you’ve counted to 10.

    Please let me know if that’s helpful or if you’d like me to comment in another direction. I appreciate the post.

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  16. I must say that a true Bed Head will not let anybody call it bed, or any kind of head.

    And I do not agree with you at all. There are so many things wrong about your theory that I was simply amused. Now I wonder if you actually wrote this to entertain. I just did not want to be stupid and write a serious critique for a romantic comedy (in the end a Bed Head falls madly in love with the Hat Head).

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  17. Hi Izabela,

    I’d be happy to answer any direct questions you have. I’m not sure I understand the post, but I’d be happy to address something specific.

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  18. George Harrison’s song “Something” is all about love, although you will not find that word in it. I think that something similar is happening in this article, for the most part it’s about a word missing in it: Persuasion.

    In an ideal world, or if you are among people with common sense, “dialectics” would be the first choice, but when excessive pride and arrogance are everywhere, persuasion is the (only) option.

    So I must say that I agree with the article.

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  19. Introvert or Extrovert, who ever you shoehorn into your office there’s always one connection, sugar and caffeine.
    God bless coffee and chocolate, without it there’d be a lot of bodies in this office right now :o)

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  20. …read this article first, then decide if you have what it takes to manage clients and client relationships. it’s not all about web design and internet development

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  21. Keith,
    Great article you put together here; I think that it’s especially strong because you can apply the success principles in this article to any area of life and not necessarily restrict it to design.

    For instance, maybe you decide you want to go to one restaurant for dinner, but your wife wants to go to a different restaurant.  How do you go about getting what you want while still taking her view into consideration?  You might decide to go along with her because they have food that you like, or you might be able to give her a really good reason to come where you want to go!

    Granted, it’s not just about food; it also gives me some great ideas when working on a project at my office.  Luckily there aren’t too many people who argue with design elements or standards here, but when it does happen it’s frustrating.  I think you’ve given the common designers and developers some hope in getting their ideas implemented.  Thanks for that!

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  22. Hi, Tim:

    Thank you for the kind words. You are correct in that I would hope that the same principals that drive success are found in almost any facet of life. There are many ways to successfully (and calmly) work through any conflict, and if it works better for some people, they should apply (platonic) methods that work socially for their work environment.

    Of course, now that I’ve said that, I’m certain people will misconstrue the meaning and have fun with it.

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  23. I enjoyed the article. Just want to say that the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie would be a great addition to anyone who is involved in dealing with people.

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  24. “Try pulling together a smaller group of people that can influence the direction of your project before you get to the main kick-off”

    Thats what i did at my workplace, had a big project to lead and it didnt started very well for me.. Leading a Team isnt so easy what many people out there think it is.  Thank you Keith, i really enjoyed reading your Article

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  25. Thanks, Tommy! It’s nice to know people are using the advice and getting positive results. Best wishes.

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  26. Thanks for very interesting article. btw. I really enjoyed reading all of your posts. It’s interesting to read ideas, and observations from someone else’s point of view”¦ makes you think more.

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  27. Keith, i really enjoyed reading your article. As a manager myself in a sales team, i had really encounter some of the point you have made. Your article made me put on my thinking cap. Guess i need to put some of your pointers into work! Thanks!

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  28. “I remember the first time a client showed high levels of frustration during my project. The vice president of sales and marketing for a now-defunct insurance company was screaming at our team for not applying the correct brand strategy (we’d used product-specific colors instead of the corporate color scheme).”

    That is why successful stuff start from the “non giving up”.

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  29. I’m a little late to the discussion, but thanks for the article. You’ve illustrated quite well the necessity for poise, calm-but-quick thinking, and pulling everyone into the project in a way that manages all assets. This would work for large companies as well as smaller ones. Kudos.

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  30. I agree with you on this topic. That is wahy I keep coming back to read this blog over and over.

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