How to Get A Diverse Range of Personalities to Work Together

How to Get A Diverse Range of Personalities to Work Together

Two people with the most opposite learning and work styles can still work together effectively when they’re in the right positions. Here is an overview of how to get your team to collaborate successfully, using their PI results. 

If we can learn anything from the widely varied personalities of Winnie the Pooh and his friends from the Hundred Acre Wood is that no matter how different we are, when solving a problem, we can be better together. What is the secret sauce to getting a diverse range of personalities to work together?  Winnie the Pooh would say the secret ingredient is, of course, HONEY!  Honey aside, here is a simple recipe to getting your teams to collaborate successfully:

How to Get Your Team to Collaborate Successfully

  1. Remove assumptions
  2. Be willing to understand one another
  3. Respect and play to each other’s strengths
  4. Align on overall goals and create shared expectations

It is not always easy, but it is worth it.

“Mariana is so rude.  She never says good morning and always has her headphones on.  She never wants to take part in our brainstorming.  If she doesn’t like us, she shouldn’t be part of the team.” -says Rachel (high extraversion, “high B”: enthusiastic relationship builder; thinks out loud)

“Rachel is always talking when I am trying to focus.  It is like she can’t figure out anything on her own. She is always bouncing around from person to person, she can’t possibly get anything done.” – says Mariana (low extraversion, “low B”: heads-down, task-focused, introspective; initially thinks things through alone)

Ah, the ever-occurring lullabies of team members with opposite behavioral styles making assumptions. Rachel, a people-focused connector who gets her energy from people assumes Mariana, an analytical, task-focused worker, does not like her fellow team members just because she does not openly collaborate the way Rachel does.  While Mariana assumes Rachel is not productive or independently capable because she talks so much.  This is a classic case of making assumptions simply because someone does not do the same things you do.  Rachel processes out loud so her productivity is in fact enhanced by her talking to others.  Mariana best contributes to the team by introspectively solving problems and executing efficiently.  Assumptions are made when we only interpret situations through OUR filter causing us to misunderstand or misinterpret someone else’s action.  If I am an A>D (high dominance with low formality) I can’t assume everyone can just “fill in the blanks” themselves or “wing it” the way I can.  A D>A (high formality with low dominance) appreciates a clear understanding of what you want, how you want it and when so they can mitigate risk and protect the outcomes.  Next time you find yourself getting frustrated with someone or thinking negative thoughts about their actions, stop, remove your filter, and think it through from another perspective.  If you are going to assume, ASSUME POSITIVE INTENT.

Our personal filter and bias can be strong and therefore we have to seek to not only understand ourselves and how we come across to someone with a different style, but also, seek to understand the motivators of your colleagues. If you are a high dominant (“high A”), do you realize you can intimidate rather than motivate?  That your passion and confidence can be viewed as aggressive?  Learn your audience and adapt as necessary so you are not misread. Let’s look at one more example of a common misperception.

“Rick is so frustrating!  He just jumps right in and starts on projects before we have even detailed out what needs to be done, how it needs to be done and who is responsible for what elements of the job!” – says Brian (high formality and low extraversion: “structured, formal, technical thinker”)

“Brian is always such a roadblock to forward progress! He wants to have a formal plan for everything when we don’t have time for that!  We know the general direction of the project and we just need to get started.  We can fill in blanks as we go!” –says Rick (low patience and low formality: fast-paced, sense of urgency, big picture thinker”)

In this example, Brian, a D>B (high formality with low extraversion), who is driven by preciseness, the “rule book” and thrives on accuracy is frustrated by the free-wheeling, risk-taking style of Rick, a B>D (high extraversion and low formality), who is more focused on achieving results versus how to get there.  Rick thinks “we can be first to win” while Brian thinks, “But we can also be first to sink if we don’t test the waters first”.

When you have two opposite profiles, USE THEM!  Ask questions, seek to understand.  If I am someone who is “comfortable in the gray” and instinctually driven (low D, low E) and I am working with someone who appreciates structure and needs black and white (high D, high E), we have an instant opportunity for conflict.  However, if we learn to tap into these differences, knowing they are there, we can turn potential frustration into a winning combination.

If I am aware that my partner is naturally focused on the task at hand, not how something makes someone feel and his communication style is “direct, matter-of-fact and to the point” (A>B), I can learn to not have my feelings hurt because they walked by me in the morning without a “good morning”.  I have to remember that the action, or lack of action, is not personal, they are just focused and thinking of the job ahead of them.  Conversely, if I am the A>B I have to realize that my partner works best when he can think things through out loud and “processes externally”, I won’t snap to judgment that he came unprepared to a meeting, he just needs to bounce ideas around first.  If we learn to meet in the middle, we both reach the outcome we both want.

This process of seeking to understand motivators will lead to identifying each other’s strengths and preferences.  Instead of being frustrated by the differences, you can capitalize on them!  If one person enjoys structured, methodical work and the other is charged up by collaboration, brain-storming and variety, you can split tasks.  Charge the structured, methodical worker with all tasks that require detail focus, consistent, steady processed work while you have the other person do the team member/customer recon, going out and gathering insights, asking questions to identify the strategy.  Working together you will have a well-rounded picture and concise, proficient outcomes.  Instead of feeling like you are not good team members because you are so different, value those different styles and put them to work for you.  Allocating work based on expertise is great but a win-win is when you can establish who actually WANTS to do certain elements of a job.  Before you divvy the work, be sure you are on the same page of direction.

Team Collaboration – Aligning Goals and Establishing Expectations

That leads us to the final ingredient is aligning on goals and establishing clear expectations.  Alignment aides in faster decision-making and allows team members to stay focused to execute more efficiently.  Up front, and early in the process, you need to determine the overall goal together and then divvy up the work.  Identify clear “swim lanes” and mutually agreed on expectations for each of you and then respect one another’s process to accomplish those goals.  Your way is not always the right way.  If you are working on a long-term project, establish interim checkpoints to align or make adjustments as needed and then allow a “last looks” meeting to make any necessary changes.  Appreciate the fact that an individual with a high patience drive (“high C”) is methodical, process driven and comfortable with the familiar therefore establishing timelines, a checklist and discussing which elements of the job he/she is most comfortable with, will help elevate the efficiency of the project and reduce stress for the high C.  The interim checkpoints will ensure individuals with a low patience drive (“low C”) are able to stay and track and not get too distracted from the job at hand.

Working with a diverse set of personalities can be challenging but it can also be highly rewarding and a great avenue for personal growth.  Through seeking to understand others, gaining alternative perspectives and challenging our own assumptions, we truly build stronger team dynamics.

Seek out the yin to your yang in the workplace and start mixing up that recipe!

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PI Midlantic is the largest PI-certified provider in the world. We have helped clients ranging from small, family-owned businesses to national corporations. Our consultants have intimate knowledge of the PI software and are dedicated to working side-by-side with you to help you understand your data. We call that Winning Together.

Melanie Wood, Talent Optimization Advisor


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