Work teams aren’t monoliths: They’re comprised of individuals, each with their own way of doing things and their own personalities. A critical team leadership skill is developing an awareness of the role that personality plays in doing an exemplary job.

Ted’s support services team is made up of people who all do well at completing their assigned tasks. They don’t always seem to be motivated to do more, though. And their reactions during team meetings often leave Ted perplexed.

team leadership - personalities

For example, Derek, his most experienced team member, seems disinterested when Ted explains the intricacies of the monthly company initiatives. Ted has to go into detail because Louise and Danny will always ask for more information and have questions about how to achieve the goals being set for them. The only person who doesn’t worry him is Janet, who generally agrees with everyone else’s comments and never has questions for him.

Ted is misreading these team members. Each of them represents one of four classic work personalities:

The Bottom Line: This personality doesn’t want or need extensive information about the task they’ve been given. They need to know enough to get started, and if they need more information, they’ll get back to you. They don’t like to waste time with idle chitchat, and they’ll tune you out if they are only hearing information they don’t need right now. That’s Derek, who wants the meeting to be over with yesterday so he can get started.

The Detail Diver: This team member’s personality is just the opposite: He or she wants as many details about the assignment as possible, and wants them up front. The more information this person can get, the more confident they are – because they want to do quality work. On Ted’s team, Louise is the one who asks the most questions about an assignment, often asking about details beyond the scope of the initiative.

The Smooth Sailor: This personality wants everyone to get along and doesn’t try to rock the boat – often by agreeing with everyone else and holding back questions that might churn up more discussion or lengthen a meeting. This is Janet, who gives Ted the least trouble in meetings and who delivers consistent work.

The Joker: Often jovial and fun in meetings, this personality type likes to chat quite a bit and interact with the group. This outgoing person is partly fishing for attention and craves recognition from leadership, which is why Danny frequently joins Louise in asking for extra details about their assignment.

Once Ted recognizes the individual personalities of his group, he can make some changes in the team meetings that will garner better responses from everyone and help motivate them more effectively. Janet needs to be more confident about speaking up when she has a concern, because she could have an insight that would help the team. Ted now makes it a point, after the meeting, when she will be more comfortable, to ask her opinion about the latest assignment.

Likewise, he saw how antsy Derek gets once the basics of the assignment are given out. Rather than trying to answer every single question from Louise and Danny, he now sets a timer that limits the discussion period after he hands out assignments to just 10 minutes. He let the team know that they can approach him at any time with additional questions about their assignments. That shortened the meetings significantly and allows Derek to head out and get started right away.

One welcome consequence of the changes has been that the deluge of questions that Ted expected from Louise and Danny never happened. Most of those nitty-gritty details were answered by the other team members as they discussed the initiatives after the meeting. Ted still makes it a point to stop by each of their work areas to chat, giving them the time and attention these personality types need.

Getting a better read on team members’ personalities can help leaders boost their confidence in themselves and their role within the team. That’s a performance enhancer no matter how you look at it.


One Team, One DreamExcerpted from One Team, One Dream by Gregg Gregory For more information, get your copy of Gregg’s book, One Team, One Dream today! Available in both print and electronic versions!

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