One of the most effective teams I have ever worked in consisted of one leader and four “do’ers”. What made the team so effective was that each of the five people all had a preference for working with information that matched their role. The balance between big picture and details-focus was perfect. Let me explain. One scale which forms part of some popular personality tools pertains to the type of information we like to work with. At one end of the scale there are those who enjoy working with abstract, conceptual, big picture or future-oriented information and problems. At the other end are people who prefer concrete data, facts and details. For a team to be effective, you need the right balance of each. Ideally, the leader will like to focus on the big picture and set the vision or strategy. The team members will enjoy turning ideas into reality, working with the detail and making sure all the loose ends are tied up. If the situation were reversed, with many ‘ideas’ people and only one ‘doer’, it’s likely that the team would be much less effective.
While this is a simplistic approach to just one aspect of team dynamics, it points to the broader need to ensure that a team has a mix of styles, preferences and personalities. Profiling tools can be very helpful to identify the personality styles and working preferences within your team. They also help to identify areas where the team may have a gap in skills. I’ve used the Team Management Profile® on many occasions and I find it resonates well with people. It’s specifically designed to look at team leader and team member styles at work, rather than personality styles in general. The profile uses four scales:
- How you relate to other people at work (extrovert versus introvert)
- How you gather and use information (practical versus creative)
- How you make decisions (analytical versus values or belief-based)
- How you organise yourself and others (structured versus flexible)
Based on a person’s preferences on each scale, the tool pinpoints the type of work they prefer, and as a consequence, are good at. Using the tool to look at your team in a holistic way can be extremely valuable to understand why certain team members may have a personality clash. It also helps to diagnose areas of strength and weakness for the team. Awareness of such issues is the first step towards being able to put in place proactive strategies to help the team perform at their best.