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Blending Key Personality Types To Make Better Teams

Dan Sines

CEO at Traitify | Star Wars & Superhero Fan, Adventurer, aspiring Renaissance Man | Inventor/Visionary in Work

Teams at work are made up of people. That sounds obvious, but think about it: it means that when building a team, you can't just pick people for their technical skills, as if you're choosing otherwise interchangeable Legos from a bin. People have personalities and varying "soft skills" that affect the way they work and the way they work with each other, and keeping these personalities balanced on a team is a good way to ensure harmony.

When we talk about "blending" we can mean one of two things. First, there's the blend of personality types within one single person - because nobody is one hundred percent one thing.

For example, you could have two people who are both very creative and "out of the box" thinkers, but because of their secondary personality characteristics, they're still very different people. Perhaps one is more of an extroverted leader and another is more introverted and detail-oriented.

"Maybe the introverted 'inventor' would do really well with another inventor who was more introverted," says Traitify director of psychology Bev Betz, "but paired up with an inventor who was really extroverted, they might be swamped."

In other words, when putting team members together, it's important to look past the sometimes superficial first layer of personality to get a deeper understanding of what makes an individual tick, and to remember that just because a person has a certain trait, that trait doesn't fully define them.

The second form of blending means getting multiple individuals with different personality types to get along and work cohesively. Since, as Kellogg School of Management professor Leigh L Thompson writes, "the well-rounded team member, who possesses exquisite technical, task-management, and interpersonal skills, is a statistical rarity," you need different people on your team so that each can take on part of the work of whatever the team is supposed to be doing, whether that's spearheading a new project, coming up with new product ideas, or assisting customers.

Research shows that even in the absence of "difficult" personalities, conflicting personality styles are a common cause of workplace conflict. For example, an introvert might prefer to keep her head down and her office door closed, but the extrovert down the hall might see that as rude. It's important, then, that all your employees are aware of their own communication styles and working preferences and that they understand others might work differently. One way to do this is to have team members take a personality assessment together. It may give them new insights into their own strengths and weaknesses and will help them learn more about their teammates.

Teams also need different strengths at different phases of the team's work. Which is not to say you need to bring in a new person every month, but that people who may wonder what their role is on a team may not understand that they are also needed.

Here's an example from marketing firm Hubspot: In the beginning, new groups aren't sure of their focus. "Members think: Is this going to be worth the effort? Is this going to be a useful team that can get things done?" At the beginning, a strong leader is important to set the tone of the group.

Then, reality sets in. "The group may begin to see how difficult its task really is, how little time and resources are available, and how members may need to settle for a half a loaf rather than a stunning breakthrough." At that point, an optimistic, people-focused person may be exactly what the team needs to ensure that the group can continue to work together. Someone patient and compassionate will keep the group from falling apart.

Finally, you need doers on your team - people who can keep punching away at the task and actually get the work done. These practical, down-to-earth team members excel at pulling out actionable tasks from a lofty list of ideas.

Putting different personalities on a team isn't exactly rocket science, but nor is it a cakewalk. Helping employees understand their own strengths and weaknesses, their colleagues' styles, and everyone's role on a team can help ensure success.

Learn how we use science to help create the perfect workplace teams. Sign up for a personalized demo of Traitify today.

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