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Bringing Personality Into Team Building

Dan Sines

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

Imagine a baseball team made up of only pitchers. They could all have Cy Young awards, but your team isn't going to get many hits - and won't win many games. Instead, a team needs to have a mix of talent. You need a good pitcher, but also good batters and fielders.

Like a sports team, a work team needs to be a mix, not a monoculture and not every group automatically makes a good team. In fact, one of the biggest reasons teams fail is that personality differences are ignored. So how can you ensure you are building teams that work together effectively? The answer is relatively straightforward: build teams with a mix of personalities.

 

When Hiring

Buffer suggests thinking about personality when you're writing a new job description. You wouldn't put out a job description without listing the skills required for the position, right? You might want to think about what personality might fit best in the job at the same time.

Also, who will your new hire work with, and do you know their personalities? What type of person - take-charge or laid-back, creative or organized - would complement your existing team?

You want to be careful about how you do this when hiring. Some personality tests explicitly say it's unethical to use them to make hiring decisions, because people can succeed in a job for multiple reasons. You may think, for example, that salespeople need to be extroverts, but some introverts make even better salespeople. Other tests caution that they should be used as one factor - and not the deciding factor - in hiring. Used that way, personality tests can be very effective.

 

With Existing Teams

But let's say you're not looking to make new hires, just structure teams more effectively with the employees you already have.

Some employers have their teams post personality test results publicly at their desks (beware: some employees will hate this). The idea, writes columnist Alexandra Levit, "was that if you understood where your teammates were coming from, you would be more tolerant of their differences and could resolve conflicts more easily." Even if your teams just take a personality test on their own and learn about their results, they may learn some strategies. For example, an employee who learns that - compared to the average - she is extremely detail-oriented might realize that she's been over-sharing in meetings and should try to keep her presentations at a higher level. An employee who finds out he scores highly on traits that make him want to act immediately may set reminders to check in with the team before forging ahead.

You'll also want to structure teams to keep that variety. If your team is full of social communicators, you might want to add some head-down, focused workers who can make sure the project hits its deadlines. If your existing team members all have a data-driven mindset, perhaps you need a big-picture brainstormer to keep coming up with creative ideas.

More importantly than the right mix even is reining in those with dominant personalities, says Beverly Betz, our executive director of psychology. "In the best teams, everyone has a chance to contribute."

 

One-on-One

Use the buddy system - especially with new hires, says Buffer's Belle Beth Cooper. "If you're buddying up new employees for a while, taking personality types into consideration could make your employee onboarding process smoother." In this sort of one-on-one situation, you probably want to buddy employees up with similar personality types, so that the more experienced person can help the newbie navigate your company's culture through her particular lens.

 

The Importance of Variety

Whatever you do, don't give up on the idea of diverse teams - both physically/culturally (though that's outside the scope of this blog post) - and personality-wise. Studies have consistently shown teams that agree on everything don't accomplish as much as those that politely disagree. And it's important that managers "stir the pot" occasionally, to keep people from becoming too complacent. "Newcomers to the team should be different in some critical way," according to researcher Margaret A. Neale, "be it in an area of expertise, level of education, manner of thinking, or some similar dimension."

The one area where you don't want any conflict or disagreement is on the team's goals and values. "Conflicts and differences in this area will generally destroy a team," Neale told Stanford Business Insights. "Managers simply must get team members to be in agreement about what the task is and the values that drive its pursuit."

In short, the importance of personality assessments as a tool to inform workplace decisions related to hiring and team building should not be underestimated.

Want to know more about how we use science to provide insights into building better teams? Check out Traitify's science and then request a free demo to see how Traitify can help with team building.

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