Leading A Team Of Diverse Personalities – Part 4: Getting Things Done As A Team

     
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Although diversity is incredibly valuable in a team, it can sometimes lead to blockages in justgetting things done. As team leader, if you can see where some of these blockages might arise, you can start to explore better ways of working. How you approach this will inevitably be determined by your own personality type and so it is important to ask questions of team members and try to understand from their perspective what they need to work at their best.

Communication

How you best communicate as a team will somewhat depend on the type of work that you do, the kind of information you need to share, the type of decisions you need to make and team members’ working patterns. However, it is also important to think about personality differences in relation to this topic

Introverts can have tendency to like to communicate more via e-mail – they may see it as giving people time to think and come up with a more fully formed answer. Extraverts will find this difficult and will often want to know what others think and ask questions to help form their opinion. Add in problems of long e-mail trails with lots of responses and people disagreeing over e-mail and it can lead to chaos and frustration. A happy medium is to send an e-mail and offer the opportunity to meet too or perhaps to reassure people that you are happy for them to discuss with others in the team before coming back to you with a response. To avoid unnecessary e-mail trails, make sure you specify if you want answers to go to the whole team or whether they can just reply to you.

Extraverts on the other hand may have a tendency to call lots of meetings which can cause frustrations in some who feel they are a waste of time and “want to get on with some real work!”. If you have this tendency, think about whether you really do need to call a meeting to discuss the issue as a group or whether you could instead talk to people individually. If, however, you do need to meet as a group, think about what information you could give to people up front before the meeting in order to make it more efficient when you do meet.

Structure versus flexibility

Some people want to create structure around their work (judging preference) and this can lead to high levels of efficiency and will suit some types of work particularly well. However, it may lead to less flexibility which can cause issues for some types of work. Others will want as much flexibility as possible (perceiving preference) which can lead to high levels of innovation and will again suit some types of work well. However, it can also lead to a chaotic way of working, leaving others to pick up the pieces if work is left too much to the last minute! Having both these types of people in your team can lead to really positive working relationships as both approaches are valuable but these relationships can also be tricky, sometimes leading to conflict which can see both parties digging their heels in, attempting to make others work in their style.

It is possible to find ways around these issues. Take an example where you have a person with a perceiving preference delegating work to someone with a judging preference. If the person with the perceiving preference knows they have something coming up which they need help with but they know they have a tendency to ask for it last minute, they could ask the other person to block out a couple of hours in their diary the day before the deadline to help them - they may not know what they will be doing but at least they won’t be thrown something at the last minute without warning!

Fundamentally, it is important for you to foster a culture of respect in your team where team members work with each others’ preferences rather than against them. Just make sure that people don’t use preferences as an excuse not to do something! As team leader it is your job to set expectations and standards. Do make sure you take into account your own preferences when you do this and take the time to listen to and understand others’ perspectives.

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