Leading a Team of Diverse Personalities – Part 2: Team Meetings

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In part 1 we looked at the four sets of Myers Briggs Type Indicator preferences and how these lead to different approaches at work. In part 2 we will explore the impact of personality differences on team meetings and how, as a team leader, you can improve team meetings for everyone.

Planning ahead

If you remember, we talked about those who like to talk through problems with others first (extraverts) versus those who like to think them through first (introverts). While extraverts will tend to be comfortable being presented with a topic in the meeting without prior warning, introverts will much prefer to be pre-warned about the topics for discussion so they can think them through in advance. If you also prefer this latter way of working yourself, make sure you remember that the extraverts within your team will need time to talk ideas through too and do allow for this in your meetings. So an advance agenda and time for discussion should create a happy medium.

Meeting agendas are a topic which can also cause real frustration for judging versus perceiving preferences, the last of the four preference pairs. Those with a judging preference tend to prefer the team to stick to the agreed agenda and often become frustrated if the meeting runs too far behind schedule or too many tangential conversations happen. On the other hand, those with a perceiving preference may feel frustrated by too rigid a structure which doesn’t allow for exploration of ideas and issues that arise. Of course, the best thing to do is to try and achieve a balance. For instance, if something arises which seems important to discuss but is not on the agenda, you could flag this up and adjust the agenda accordingly, giving this additional conversation a time limit so that those who like structure feel comfortable that it won’t go on forever and erode the rest of the agenda, while those who like to respond flexibly are happy as the new topic will be explored.

Hearing from everyone

Introversion and extraversion are important again here. Extraverts can tend to dominate group discussions as they quickly voice thoughts as they arise and are much more comfortable interrupting others and being interrupted – it is part of the process for them. Intraverts can be put off by this and feel less able to contribute because they tend to wait for a gap before speaking – something which may not happen with several extraverts in the room! There are techniques you can use to hear from everyone such as asking each person to contribute one idea in turn – remember however if you put an introvert (or someone inexperienced such as a student) on the spot without prior warning, they may find this hard too. Ideally you would have told everyone what you want to talk about prior to the meeting as discussed above.

The other set of preferences which plays out here is thinking versus feeling. Those with a thinking preference may come across as very critical, something which doesn’t bother them if directed at them by someone else. However, those with a feeling preference have a tendency to take critique more personally so too much of this could cause them to stop contributing. This is something to be aware of when chairing a meeting and if this is something you think is a problem in your team, you could suggest a period of generating ideas with no critique, followed by going through each in turn to hear critiques from everyone – this might help to de-personalise the process somewhat.

These are just a couple of areas in which you can think about balancing meetings for your team members. The most important thing is to periodically take a step back and assess whether your meetings are working and whether you think everyone is getting what they need from them – it is worth asking your team members at their one-to-ones whether the team meetings work well for them. The format of your team meetings will need constant review and may be affected by the size of your team and turnover. It is a difficult area in which to achieve a perfect balance so don’t be disheartened if you need to keep adjusting how you approach them.

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