Managing a Team of Different Personalities

“He’s so driven and absolutely clueless as to how he comes across.”

“She is overly sensitive and takes everything so personally.”

“He might be able to solve the problem, but by the time he comes up with a solution, we’ll be out of business.”

In our consulting business, we routinely hear comments like those above, typically followed by: “He (or she) just doesn’t fit here. This person is not a good match for our culture.”

Often, when probing further, it becomes apparent that the team member being described is a square peg in a round hole when it comes to this organization. He or she just doesn’t think or act the same way as the majority of the rest of the team, which makes him or her stand out as being different.

Often this person is perceived to be a roadblock in terms of effectively contributing to the success of the team and organization. In other words, this person’s way of thinking, or approach to work, is radically different than that of the majority of the other team members.

Although the different approach may be challenging for some team members, it is important to remember that in building a highly effective team, different is good.

There are hundreds of different instruments to define/analyze behavioral and communication styles. To keep it simple, we’ve just assigned simple descriptive words to talk about some of the more challenging behaviors displayed by different team members.

Here are some tips on how to interact with different or difficult team members.

Style: Driver (Red)
Primary Driver Focus: Task Orientation . . . Get it done
Motto: “My Way or the Highway”

Gifts Brought to the Team Challenges
Fast paced, driven behavior Burnout; other team members can’t keep up
Task oriented; continual focus on getting it done Done so quickly, it may not be right and need to be redone, ultimately taking more time
Focused on big picture Not process oriented; misses details; makes errors
Self-confident Can be seen as arrogant when confidence is overdone
Comfortable taking risks Risks can be costly to the team or organization
Competitive Can compete with other team members , rather than what’s best for the team/organization
Decisive Decisions made don’t always reflect careful analysis of the root cause of the problem; bad decisions can be costly and detrimental to the team

Tips for dealing with the Driver team member:

  • Give recognition to their accomplishments. Drivers thrive on acknowledgment of their successes.
  • Don’t tell them. We are fond of saying, “You can tell a driver, but not much.” Don’t try. Instead, ask questions that allow them to discover things.
  • Be time efficient; don’t waste their time.
  • Be organized and concise.
  • Provide viable alternatives as solutions to problems and let them pick the best alternative.
  • Keep your relationship business-like.

Style: Amiable (Blue)
Primary focus: Relationships . . . how we feel about working together
Motto: “Can’t we all just get along?”

Gifts Brought to the Team Challenges
Caring and empathetic Can make decisions that are emotional and not reflective of what’s best for the team or organization
Great listener Will listen to anyone; can be at the expense of productivity
Supportive, high concern for others When overdone, can enable others
Sensitive Gets hurt and takes things personally
Comfortable taking risks Risks can be costly to the team or organization
Competitive Can compete with other team members rather than working towards what’s best for the team/organization
Shares personal feelings Can be taken advantage of when personal information is used against the Amiables

Tips for dealing with Amiable team members:

  • Don’t view an emotional response as being unprofessional. For Amiables, it is often just their first response. Help them move beyond the emotion to make good business decisions.
  • Try to be understanding and supportive of their feelings.
  • When you disagree, don’t debate facts and logic. You might approach a challenge this way, “I am sensing that we are not in agreement. Let’s talk about what you are feeling.”
  • Show Amiables that you are actively listening, even when the conversation seems to stray from business to a personal conversation. Acknowledge what is being said, then reroute the conversation back to business.
  • Avoid conflict, but do hold Amiables accountable to meeting agreed upon deadlines.

Style: Analyzer (Green)
Primary Focus: Process – How We do Things
Motto: “Do it right the first time”

Gifts Brought to the Team Challenges
Independent, autonomous Can move in a different direction than the rest of the team and lose sight of the end game
Precise May spend too much time on unimportant details
Detailed May provide too much detail; other team members may see excess information as a data dump
Organized, thorough Can get bogged down in minutia and lose sight of the end result
Curious Has a high need to make sure that all factors are thoroughly researched and considered before coming to closure or making a decision
Well researched Takes time; may slow down other team members
Disciplined Can’t skip steps in the process

Tips for dealing with the Analyzer team member:

  • Get them involved in projects early on. Don’t exclude them because you think you’ll be more time efficient. Analyzers see things at a much deeper level than other team members. You need their contribution.
  • Give them all the facts up front. Then, tell them what you need from them, but not how they should accomplish the work. For a Green, the process is critical. Tell them what you need, but not how to do it.
  • Be specific about time frames for work to be completed. Hold them accountable to meeting the deadlines.
  • Respect and value the Analyzer’s contribution. Look for opportunities to provide meaningful recognition.

Although it may feel good in the short run to hire people just like you, in the long run, cloning yourself will spell disaster for your team. Ultimately, the way to build a highly effective team is to consciously think about hiring, developing and retaining different or diverse thinkers and doers. Remember, great leaders treat team members the way they want to be treated, even when they are different. When it comes to building a successful team, different is good.

(3) Comments

  1. I’m doing a ton of interviewing right now. This was good reminder on how I should approach personalites on interviews.

  2. I have observed that it is very hard for some managers to allow individuals to express their ideas and opinions in meetings or forums that are not shared by the manager. The manager interupts, cut offs, and discourages the individual from finishing their comment or input. They respond to the comment by differing, neagting or ignoring it through changing the subject in midstream.

    This behavoir is noticed by all staff and is taken as an “omen”, not to speak up or the same thing will happen to you. It is better to keep your mouth shut than to take the risk of getting on the managers bad side.

    I follow Pat Richie’s recomendations and I do not ignore the white elephant in the middle of the room.( I am not allways on the manager’s good side.) I “do” appreciate diversity and I value a wide range of ideas and input. I believe they are the basis of wise discision making.

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