Team synergy: Combining personalities

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Nicola Davies
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Dr Nicola Davies describes the different personality types and how they can enhance teamwork.

 

Putting together a team composed of different personalities can be difficult and, at times, counter-productive. Failure to create synergy can result in failure in fulfilling the team’s objective. The key is to know how to identify the different personality types and their specific strengths and motivations. 

According to a 2003 publication by Richard Clark [1], director for the Center of Cognitive Technology at the University of Southern California, "What makes motivation a complex issue is that different individuals and groups have very different beliefs about the nature of 'success' and about what supports or prevents success." 

Managers or trainers must know how to support the variety of talent and appeal to individual perceptions of success; otherwise people may become bored or feel ineffective in their work.

One tool that can be used to identify different personality types and their respective motivations is the Enneagram, which was put together by Oscar Ichazo in the mid-20th century. Today, the Enneagram Institute [2] manages this tool, which is made up of nine different personality types:

The reformer

This personality type is principled, conscientious, purposeful and self-controlled. The reformer adheres to a personal set of ethical and quality standards and is typically a perfectionist. They can be identified as people who are well organised and typically display impatience and resentment when things fail to meet their standards. 

The reformer functions best within a team when in the role of planning and administrating, where they are able to follow or create structures, streamline procedures, and deal with the same people.

The helper

Helpers are generous, demonstrative and, at times, people pleasing. They are usually the friendly employees. Their strengths include empathy, sincerity and the ability to anticipate the needs of others. They frequently and freely offer assistance. 

The helper is the team confidant or mentor, tasked to deal with others at an emotional level in order to build interpersonal connections within a team. They excel at networking people with services.

The achiever

Achievers are competent, excelling and adaptive. They are the ambitious, image-conscious and success-driven employees. Their strengths include good communication skills and a charming demeanour, and thus, are often good role models for colleagues. 

The achiever benefits a team most by going above and beyond what is expected, such as exceeding customer expectations. The achiever’s competitive side becomes an advantage when they are tasked to represent the team or company or uphold its image.

The individualist

The individualist is romantic, temperamental and, at times, self-absorbed. They can be identified as those employees who are often reserved, self-conscious and withdrawn from others. Their strengths lie in their creativity, emotional honesty, and ability for self-renewal. 

The individualist functions best in team roles that involve design, creativity and intuition. This is when they can work with independence, leave a personal mark, and elicit an emotional imprint on others.

The investigator

The investigator is secretive, isolated and perceptive. They are identifiable as those who have exceptional technical expertise and can produce innovative ideas. Their strengths include curiosity, inventiveness, and the ability to focus on highly complex concepts. They are the visionaries within a team, but motivating them too much might make them detached and appear eccentric. 

The investigator can best contribute to a team as the researcher and experimenter of solutions, where they can continuously learn, nit-pick on details, be analytical and technical, and understand the grander scheme of things.

The loyalist 

Loyalists are responsible, trustworthy and engaging. They are the committed and security-oriented team players, who are hard-working, reliable, and have the ability to inspire cooperation among colleagues. They are considered the 'troubleshooters' since they like to foresee and prevent possible problems. They can, however, also become defensive, anxious and indecisive. 

The loyalist serves a team best as the task manager, where they can put in place the necessary steps to foster team work and get things done while scanning the environment for potential obstacles or delays. 

The enthusiast

Enthusiasts are described as versatile, spontaneous and easily distracted. In the workplace, they are the playful extroverts. Their strengths include optimism, high energy levels, and pragmatism. They can sometimes become impatient and impulsive due to their tendency to be motivated by exciting and new experiences.

The enthusiast can contribute best to a team in roles comprising ideation, innovation, business opportunity, and multi-tasking, or where there is plenty of change, excitement and variety.

The challenger

The challenger is someone with distinct vision, confidence, and assertiveness. Team members who tend to be straight talking, decisive and confrontational are considered challengers. 

Since the challenger is strategic and likes to have control over the environment, they function best in a team as the decision-maker, especially when things get difficult and can’t easily be delegated.

The peacemaker 

Peacemakers are agreeable, receptive and reassuring. They have the unique ability to bring people together and act as an exceptional listener. In a team, they are the employees who are supportive, creative, accepting and stable. They are those who don’t like conflict and often try to downplay problems to avoid social tension and disorder, but they excel in tasks where there is little stress or competition. 

The peacemaker performs best within a team as a mediator, a role where they can lend support, heal conflict, and re-establish balance and inner peace.

Integrating different personalities

It’s important to note that these personality types aren’t absolute. People are often a mixture of a few of these types, but display prominence in one or two personalities. Besides motivating employees individually as their personality dictates, it’s equally critical to unify them through the use of universal common motivators: autonomy, mastery and purpose, and the removal of possible de-motivating factors.

Innovative solutions can come from the most diverse-laden team compositions. This only happens, however, when employees are celebrated for their individual capacity to contribute towards the overall outcome and are not forced into a role that is contrary to their personality.

 

Dr Nicola Davies is a Psychologist and Freelance Writer with hundreds of copy all over the world. You can follow her on Twitter (@healthpsychuk) or sign up to her free blog

[1] Clark, R. E. (2003) Fostering the work motivation of individuals and teams. Performance Improvement, 42(3), 21-29. Retrieved from http://www.usc.edu/dept/education/cogtech/publications/clark_fostering.pdf

[2] Enneagram Institute (2015) https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/type-descriptions

 

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