The Power of Understanding Every Personality on your Team

5 minutes • Apr 27, 2021Culture
Illustration of a team conference call

The grass is greener where you water it 

A few years back, the so-called “two-year-itch” was rebranded for the workforce. Originally coined to diagnose marriages in choppy waters, it now described employees—mostly Millennials—who were already getting fed-up at work and were now ready to test the job market. Given our open-book culture, the sentiment makes sense: When we have unfettered access to the outside (and inside) world that’s been carefully curated on social media, it often gives off the impression that others are engaged in a work environment that’s exponentially more delightful than our own. 

Once, however, we decide to scratch that itch, we quickly realize that what sounded so swell on Glassdoor and seemed like Xanadu on Zoom has its own set of issues. You might even kick yourself for not knowing better.

But you’ve already made your move, so rather than update your resume again, it’s time to make the most of this new opportunity. This is especially true if you’re in a leadership position, and it’s incumbent on you to make sure no one reporting to you, too, gets that itch. That begins with understanding the personalities on your team and then using that knowledge to empower themselves to learn how to best work and play well with others.

As a manager, it’s crucial that you understand what makes each individual on your team tick, and leverage that personality profile to drive business growth, as well as improve work culture. Keep this in mind throughout: Most of our waking hours are spent at work, and no one wants to be unhappy most of the time. So, if, as a leader, you embrace the idiosyncrasies of employees and allow them room to roam, they’ll give more than they take, and make everyone a winner.

The manager is actually the mentor (and the referee)

The odds are your team won’t be entirely comprised of employees you hired, but that’s no biggie—no Super Bowl coach ever got to fill out their roster from scratch, either. Your team may include a rule follower, a rebel, a social butterfly, an introvert, a creative, a cynic, a logician, etc. Add to that eclectic ensemble a mix of different roles, responsibilities, levels of experience, and personal backgrounds.

With such a different cast of characters on any given team, it’s not uncommon for disputes to arise. A good manager is always prepared to mediate and help two parties learn what gets on the others’ nerves and how to foster better communication and empathy to avoid future misunderstandings. At the same time, it’s important (and often super difficult) to remember that sometimes someone is right and the other one is wrong. Speaking of Super Bowl coaches, a former one, Jimmy Johnson, once said, “I don’t treat my players equally, I treat them fairly.” It’s subtle, but the gist is recognizing that some team members have more value than others, so if you mute the testimony of the more valued worker just to keep the peace, you may risk alienating the person whom you can least afford to lose. It’s tricky!

The best mentor

A great manager doesn’t rule with an iron fist or passive-aggressively, either. They’re a great mentor first and a manager second. Managers are empathetic, they’re willing to share their own struggles, and are ready to be supportive for life’s curveballs, regardless of where they originate. Be it a baby who won’t sleep, a car that won’t start, or a neighbor who won’t keep quiet, all of these things could be at the root of an employee’s aggression in meetings or aloofness with deadlines.

It could, too, be something monumentally more severe, some issue that eventually touches us all but is difficult to discuss. That’s when a manager will truly earn his or her stripes, and recognize that while not all players are treated equally, all work-compromising issues should be.

All roads lead to being understood

There is no shortage of ways to engage in a personality typing exercise with your team in an effort to build more meaningful relationships on your team.

At Pingboard, we’ve discovered that the value 16Personalities provides is inversely proportional to its price. Their free personality test takes about 16 minutes to complete and assigns respondents a simple acronym upon completing the assessment based on traits like:

  •     how we interact with our surroundings (introvert vs extrovert)

  •     how we see and process information

  •     how we make decisions and cope with emotions

  •     How we approach work, planning, and decision-making

  •     And how confident we are in our abilities and decisions

Not all of the insights are flattering, but they’re honest and have the potential to affect positive change if optimized correctly.

Don’t label me

There are often a few on a team who grouse about participating in an exercise like this; they don’t love being “put in a box” or labeled in a certain way. Not to worry, we need people like these to play devil’s advocate. Encourage (peaceful) dissent, as it’ll set the stage for some serious collaboration. 

Here are some of the things a personality test will help your team learn about themselves and each other:

Strengths

Observant, energetic, open-minded, good at connecting with others

Weaknesses

Overthink things, absent-minded, inflexible, easily bored

Opposites don’t always attract—at least right away

These personality insights can give your aggressive achiever the ability to understand that the introverted creative needs space and time to think to do his or her best work. When everyone on the team has transparency to see another’s acronym and learn more specifics about how they sometimes come across, you can coach (for lack of a better word) your different personality types to transcend simple coexistence with colleagues, and give them the proper techniques necessary to leverage everyone’s greatest assets.  

Once people find that they understand the value of the people they work with, they’re much more likely to be engaged in their work and stay longer with the company.

Give your employees context to work better together

An ability to understand your own personality nuances is an important way to take self-ownership, but it’s exceedingly more useful if you’re able to reveal them to those who stand to benefit from this knowledge.

Learn to remember names and faces with our Who's Who game, get started for free

At Pingboard, we use our own product to foster a culture of transparency by listing our personality types on our employee profiles. This way, when a new hire joins the organization or a team is assembled to work together for the first time, each person can look up and learn how every member of the project prefers to work.

Bonus: How to get employees to open up without directly asking

The most productive way to make employees feel comfortable about opening up is to ask them strategic open-ended questions (we have a template).

Here are some that we have found have generate the best responses (feel free to paraphrase):

  • How do you feel about your work/life balance?

  • What, if anything, would you want to change about your morning or nightly routine?

  • What’s one thing we could change about work for you that would improve your personal life?

Caring deeply is a key part of radical candor, a useful framework to being the best manager and mentor that you can possibly be. We also recommend a podcast that teaches good managers how to level up their communication style and feedback techniques to bring their team even closer.

If your team would benefit from the transparency of sharing their own communication preferences, strengths, and weaknesses, sign up for a trial of Pingboard and add a custom field for each person to add their personality acronym to their Pingboard profile. See where you’re similar and different (but complementary) to others—helping your team build more meaningful relationships so they can understand why each person works the way they do.

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