Today’s workgroups are made up of people from a variety of cultures, ethnicities, ages, and backgrounds. They also include different personalities. High performing workgroups are those that embrace and leverage these personality differences in order to achieve outstanding results.
In my line of work I use many diagnostic tools and assessments to help evaluate clients in the environment where they work. These can be useful as they provide valuable insight into how individuals differ from the people they work with most closely. Each of these tools and assessments typically involve a four-square grid where people are placed in one specific quadrant. Yes, they put people into boxes, but more importantly, they provide a common vocabulary in order to converse about what it means to be different.
Not better or worse, just different in how we think, respond and operate in the world.
This common vocabulary can then enable better understanding and ultimately movement with regard to changing behavior to help improve communication, engagement, collaboration, and overall efficiency in the workplace.
Whether using the popular Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, Keirsey Temperament Sorter, DISC profile or any number of other tools, the fundamental principle of all models basically provide four types of personalities—expressive, analytical, driven and social. Each personality type is valuable to the success of a team. All of them are vital to getting things done. And the team’s leader can come from any of them. Most importantly, it is the dynamic interplay between these four types that make a team of people truly creative in finding and implementing effective solutions.
You can find examples of these four personality types in every workplace, even popular television shows. Think of Seinfeld where Kramer is the expressive, burst in to rooms, big personality; George is the analytical, wanting to know all aspects of a situation before making a decision to act; Elaine is the driven, assertive person who can never find a man smart enough and rich enough; Jerry is the social, friendly guy who brings together and maintains the cohesiveness of the group.
After first identifying our own type and realizing the gifts and challenges it provides, next comes understanding the value of the other types and appreciating how they can also contribute to team results. Jim Collins, author of the best-selling Good to Great, says it’s not only important to get the right people on the bus, but to get each of them in the right seat on the bus. Without making too much of an over generalization, different personality types lend themselves to different work. Those who are the analytical type may not be happy or successful in a traditional sales or public relations position. An expressive or social type may find a research position far too confining.
In the words of Albert Einstein, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
A workgroup must take into account how the work is shared among diverse personality types. Just because one person has a certain job title or job function doesn’t mean he or she should be confined to that specific work. Let your team members determine how best to accomplish the work. For any whole to be greater than the sum of its parts requires maximizing the potential of each individual and leveraging the efficiencies found in true collaboration.
In their book Extraordinary Groups: How Ordinary Teams Achieve Amazing Results, Geoffrey Bellman and Kathleen Ryan write “extraordinary groups cultivate a positive mind-set about differences, choosing to see them as intriguing, informative, and essential—rather than irritating, divisive or threatening.” Bellman and Ryan found in their research of extraordinary groups that this ability to express and work with these differences as critical to their success. Holding these differences in a way all individuals can move forward together rather than pulling the group apart is a core distinction between an ordinary and an extraordinary group.
To enable more creative and innovative solutions to business problems requires utilizing the creative potential of diverse personalities in workgroups. This means not only welcoming and respecting our differences, but also learning to collaborate with and maximizing the collective wisdom found in this mix.