A Quest For Perfection

As the epitome of a Calibrator, Marissa Mayer is meticulously focused on building a better system - a standout of her achievements at Google. However, her challenges at Yahoo highlight what happens when a Calibrator is left unchecked by a balanced team - trying to solve people and culture issues with rules and systems.

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By Carl Bates


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A great example of a Calibrator in their zone of flow is the white-coated researcher or engineer in their laboratory, experimenting with strange substances while Bunsen burners bubble and pipettes and data sheets abound. There is order and method, yet also experimentation and surprise.

They constantly try new things and refine old concepts to improve and fine-tune processes or functions for optimum performance. There is a back-bone of diligence, precision and data upon which innovation can be focused and refined.

The instruments and processes that Calibrators are often involved in fine-tuning can range from business models and methodologies, to tools and technologies. Their relentless pursuit of improvement predisposes them to flourish in environments where they can experiment.

Besides their love for continuous improvement, Calibrators are driven by a need for certainty provided by facts and figures. They also strive for achievement, recognition, respect and independence. This quest often leads to them becoming known as the team or company "genius' or technical guru. They thrive when they can do something unusual in a systemic way or ensure the business is future-proof from the current team or present reality.

Calibrators who have learnt to maximise their natural energy, understand that their path of value creation lies in establishing a culture of continuous improvement while applying systems thinking in improving the foundational design of the business or unit they're involved in. They also acknowledge that no system can ever be perfect or indeed can exist without the people who drive it.

The Calibrator Contribution

Calibrators bring to the board a commanding and high-energy leadership style with a strong rational, analytical focus. They naturally see the business as an integrated system of people, resources, processes, assets and technologies. It's clear to them exactly where the business model is restricted and the extent to which that model can be scaled up and accelerated.

They have a sixth sense for how to charge up growth through leveraged technologies and innovative efficiency. Specifically, they pay attention to the practices and outcomes of continuous improvement and drive the organisation to incrementally learn and refine.

In a boardroom, Calibrator directors want to see evidence of the "how' question being addressed and whether the action or decision will result in repeatable value. "Do it once and repeat' would be the mantra of a Calibrator director. High inspiring or people-centric directors may become frustrated with the Calibrator's drive to replace people with technologies or to systematise the team.

A Calibrator director who struggles to maximise their natural energy is one who has a single-minded focus on system perfection above all else. This may drown out other signals of distress that require attention, especially from human dynamics and operational delivery perspectives. They might push too hard to keep improving or to solve all people problems through technology or process.

Duplicated Value

The Calibrator contribution to a board will ensure that wherever their refining touch is directed, continuous and incremental improvement will be on the cards. They are ideal for license-based business models or franchise systems where they can unlock value through their understanding of systems thinking and duplicating robust models.

Carl Bates

Founder: Sirdar Group

High-performance business guru, Carl Bates, is a global entrepreneur, speaker, author, mentor and director who is currently based in South Africa. His expert advice focuses on building and growing top-performing businesses. He is the founder of sirdargroup.com.

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