The Personality of Teams – Why Harnessing Diversity is Key

Liam Butler, Area Vice President, SumTotal, considers why insights into personality types, and getting the blend right, is key to getting the best from your workforce

The study of personality types and their impact on workplace roles and effectiveness remains an important consideration in an era that emphasises the importance of teams. Like many other things in life, our collective interest in personality traits and the way they influence team behaviour have been brought into new focus by Covid-19. Why, for instance, have people reacted in different ways to lockdown and social distancing? And why have some of us found it more difficult to adapt to working from home than others? Recent events have reinforced the need to understand the dynamism of team personalities, and how diversity is more important than ever.

There’s no doubt that successful teams include a range of personality profiles to work effectively. For example, everyone knows the impact of having too many ‘alpha’ personality types in a group. On the other hand, if nobody is prepared to take responsibility and set a direction within a team, it can be just as difficult to succeed.

Drawing parallels between the success of organisational teams and those that excel in sport, for example, helps to underline the significance of teamwork in achieving short and long-term goals. One only needs to look at analysis of Liverpool’s recent Premier League success this season to understand the emphasis placed on personality by both the leadership of that club and those who attribute almost as much of their success to character, as they do to athleticism, tactics and skill.

Teams roles and personality types

Building a well-functioning, heterogeneous team requires recognition of people’s different personality types and an understanding of how these fit into a team dynamic. As well as being an effective way of finding suitable talents, considering personality type is also helpful for employee development and helps motivate people on a more individual basis. A core group of personality types will be familiar to many of us – identifying where people fit can make the difference between a team that thrives and one that sinks:

Leaders

Leaders are dynamic people with the drive to provide their team with clear direction and purpose. They are problem solvers, try to remove obstacles to progress and success, and take responsibility if things go wrong. Leaders inspire team contribution, and try to set an example for their colleagues. 

Characteristics: 

Driven by autonomy, Leaders want to prove themselves and value new challenges and responsibility. They want to lead and inspire a team who reciprocates their role with confidence and support. 

High Performers

Focused on delivering maximum performance, high performers relish challenges, responsibility, and independence. They can be mentally agile and responsive to changing demands and structures, but in some situations, they may opt to avoid management in order to concentrate on concrete results and success.

Characteristics: 

High performers value regular acknowledgement and rewards in recognition of their exceptional performance. They thrive when provided with continuous and varied projects and challenges, and respond well to development and career opportunities.

Clowns

Many people will agree that “every group needs a Clown.” This personality type is happy to listen to others and help solve personal problems in the team. They often have the ability to resolve tensions to focus attention on a common goal. Their sense of humour and encouragement of recreational activities also supports team development and happiness. 

Characteristics:

Even though their extroverted character may worry their team leaders or HR managers, when given the time, they often show their value to the team. Motivated by positive feedback and the trust of their colleagues, Clowns often care about what others think of them. Indeed, even NASA places a high value on having a ‘class clown’ on a mission to relieve tension during high pressure situations.   

Specialists

Specialists are experts in their field, often demonstrating technical or business acumen necessary to meet their objectives. This may also mean they have tunnel vision, and many find it challenging to think outside the box. Communication can be tricky for the Specialist, who can have difficulty explaining their thoughts to non-experts. However, they are valued for their depth of knowledge and as a result, most teams have at least one or more specialists. 

Characteristics:

Specialists attach great importance to being appreciated for their expertise. However, it is just as important to support their integration into the group with a view of the overall goal. Communication training can help specialists to find their ideal place within the team, which will motivate them further. 

Experts

Experts generally have strong levels of experience and contribute their knowledge to help solve problems in their team. Often a calming influence and trustworthy colleague, they are happy to share their expertise with the rest of the team.

Characteristics:

Experts are motivated by development opportunities, such as mentoring colleagues or working with other teams or departments. They enjoy being valued in the team for their experience and reliability. 

New Members

Bringing valuable know-how and a fresh perspective, at best, New Members can be inspirational. On the flipside, their arrival can also lead to unrest, changing the dynamics of the team. 

Characteristics:

Starting in a new team is more effective when following an induction plan. Having a clear description of responsibilities within the team and communication of the team’s goals can motivate the New Member to start positively and feel confident. Regular feedback, especially with regard to performance and career goals, is important from day one.

For many organisations, modern talent management systems hold the key to enabling ongoing dialogue and feedback and the development and pursuit of career goals. By providing valuable access to learning content, they also help to develop each employee’s skills, a function vital in harnessing diversity to build effective teams.

That’s because ultimately, successful teams depend on an effective blend of personalities and when each individual fulfils their functional role within the group, allowing individuals to complement, rather than conflict, with those around them. As anyone who has worked in a rounded and motivated team will know, this can bring huge benefits to everyone involved. 

About the author:

Liam has over 15 years’ experience in the Learning and Talent Management sector, during which time he has worked on over 100 LMS & Talent Management rollouts across Europe, Middle East and Africa. Liam has a deep knowledge of Extended Enterprise Models, experience in GxP regulated businesses, and detailed domain expertise in core verticals including media, manufacturing and aviation.

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