By John Hal
CREDIT: Getty Images
Playing to your team members’ strengths starts with learning what they are.
As a leader, it’s important to know the people you work with. Strong relationships lead to stronger teams, and stronger teams lead to a more productive and more successful company. But getting to know people isn’t just knowing their favorite TV show or the name of their spouse. That’s trivia. To effectively manage your team, you’ve got to be aware of and understand your team members’ personalities.
There are tons of personality tests out there: Myers-Briggs, Big Five, DiSC, StrengthsFinder, etc. All of these seek to categorize people by their innate characteristics and provide a window into their strengths, tendencies, and behavior. While these tests aren’t always perfect, they can really help you understand how to better lead your team–no matter what personality types are on it.
Here are a few ways you can use insights from these tests to build stronger, better teams:
1. Know yourself.
At Influence & Co., we ask new hires to take the Myers-Briggs personality test. This allows us to get acquainted with them, and it’s a good conversation starter; lots of people read their results and talk about how scarily accurate their description was. That’s one of my biggest takeaways from this test: It helps you understand yourself a little bit better. And honestly, that’s the first step in working with others and leading teams.
My Myers-Briggs type is ENTP, often referred to as the debater. ENTPs are devil’s advocates, driven by curiosity and an innate desire to question things and create change. I know this about myself, but if I weren’t aware of it, my tendency to ask a million questions about an idea and challenge processes might make people on my team think I hate all their ideas. In fact, there aren’t many things I hate. It’s just my personality to question and challenge, and knowing that about myself is helpful to understanding how I come across.
2. Know your team.
Personalities clash sometimes. It’s not possible to create a team made up entirely of one personality type, and if it were, you shouldn’t do it. (I can tell you right now that nobody would want two of me in a room together.) So, to build and lead a strong team, it’s important to know some basic personality traits of everyone in the room.
Is this person more introverted or extroverted? Does she make decisions based more on fact or feeling? Does she like big ideas or little details? Each one of these basic personality traits gives you insight into how to find roles that best fit each individual and, more importantly, how to communicate with that individual. All team members are like pieces of a puzzle; when they’re placed where they fit, they’ll be much more useful than they would be if they were just thrown into a pile.
3. Ask your team members what they need.
If you think the Myers-Briggs test is overrated or want another way to assess the needs of people on your team, consider the DiSC assessment. DiSC evaluates four specific personality traits–dominance, influence, steadiness, and conscientiousness–that offer good guidance on what level of structure and supervision employees might need.
Dominant individuals can operate with little structure, but they’re not keen on course correction or interruption. Influential employees require more structure and always seek feedback or input from team members. Steady individuals are creative and require little structure, but they won’t do anything that might jeopardize others on their team (at least not without asking). Finally, conscientious people are structured rule followers who prioritize perfection but overanalyze and have trouble delegating to others.
With any number and mix of these personality types on a team, it’s important for leaders to know what each person’s needs are. That could come through taking a test like the DiSC, trial and error, or–my personal favorite–asking them directly. This shows team members that you care about how they prefer to work and that you want to help them succeed in ways that are actually useful to each of them.
4. Accept feedback.
Even if you know your team well, you’re bound to make mistakes from time to time. When that happens, don’t be afraid to take feedback. As a leader, you’re responsible for giving feedback every day, so be receptive when your team offers feedback to you. It may be hard to take (especially when you’re the person in charge), but it’s impossible to improve without constructive criticism.
Managing a team is no easy task. Personalities, needs, and motivations will be different for every member of your team, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to lead a team of diverse personalities. Following these tips will help any manager build stronger relationships with their employees and lead their team to greater success.
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