How to successfully manage different personalities

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Alison Rood
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One of the biggest challenges in business is managing people, so understanding how to handle different personality types is an important factor in successfully delivering projects.

For a project manager, at their best their team will be collaborative and work together with an understanding of one another's skill set. At the most challenging, the team will separate out into different silos and not work together; this creates a lack of understanding and causes relationships to break down and in extreme cases individuals become disruptive, unresponsive and disengaged.

One challenging personality within a team can change the whole team dynamic.

At a very simple level, you are dealing with human beings whose behaviours can change between morning, noon and night. One challenging personality within a team can change the whole team dynamic and consequently negatively impact your project deliverables and outcomes.

Here are my top tips for learning and development departments supporting their project leaders navigating the three most challenging personalities in a project team. 

The disruptor 

Hyena approaching zebras

For the disruptor, knowledge is power and this can lead to them keeping things to themselves, withholding information and not sharing details with you or members of the team.

In the meeting environment, they can often be the team member talking back and being seen to not respect other people and their roles. A further challenge they can present within a team is by creating silos, which creates a divide in a team, causing it to split.

When it comes to their work, they often do not keep to deadlines or complete the work to the required standard. If they don’t take part and haven’t done their bit, this can affect the overall project. 

Ultimately the reputation of the project, the team and the project manager can be at risk particularly as people in authority and the client themselves will often just remember the deliverables that weren’t done well or weren’t completed properly.

If they feel threatened they will go out of their way to be disruptive and protect themselves often as a distraction to what they’re actually thinking or feeling. 

As with all these personalities, the solution is looking beyond the behaviours to identify the potential root causes. Often the disruptor does not intentionally set out with the objective to either not complete their work or cause challenges to the team dynamic – it’s more likely they are working from a position of fear.

If they feel threatened they will go out of their way to be disruptive and protect themselves often as a distraction to what they’re actually thinking or feeling. 

The key here is to talk to them and get to the root cause of what it is they feel threatened about. Is it their confidence in their ability to do their job? Do they have an objective to deliver which pushes them outside of their comfort zone? Are they feeling their opinions are being ignored?

Once you’ve identified the root cause, as well as drawing attention to their perceived disruptive behaviours and the challenges it is causing the team and project, you will be able to implement solutions that work for them.

Giving them time and space to be acknowledged in a supportive environment in which they can thrive and feel valued.

The magpie

Magpie in tree

The magpie, similar to its bird counterpart, is obsessed with shiny things and this leads to them to proactively seeking the newest or most exciting project within the business. 

This can result in them not being focused on your project but on something else. The symptoms of this include them not doing what you ask them, often because they don’t see the value in doing it, so won’t and refuse.

If you can get them to focus on your project it is often only temporary as they jump from your project to another, prioritising the most exciting. 

Set a clear framework of deliverables and deadlines and stress the importance of getting it done regardless of whether or not it’s their favourite project. 

Further to their seeking the most interesting projects, they’re also drawn to the shiny allure of new tools and technology: obsessed with shoehorning this tool or technology into your project, they fail to see its inappropriateness, or that the time spent researching and negotiating it is wasted. 

With this personality, is it important to set a clear framework of deliverables and deadlines and stress the importance of getting it done regardless of whether or not it’s their favourite project. 

Once you've identified the magpie, call it out, acknowledge that you understand this might not be the most interesting or exciting project they're working on but share the impact of the project on the client and the company.

This will help them to gain perspective and see the bigger picture of how the business works. 

Rechannel their energies to tasks and projects that they will enjoy, within reason. Play to their strengths whilst proactively seeking to push them outside their comfort zone as well. 

The silent assassin (or the career climber)

Silent assassin

Similar to the disruptor, for the silent assassin, knowledge is power and they will keep things to themselves, withholding information and not sharing it, which causes obvious problems to the project.

Their focus is being seen to be the one who knows the most about the project and is therefore seen as the most valuable. 

Further to their perceived value of knowledge, they place a high value on creating relationships, not just for the success of the project but more fundamentally for personal gain.

They will create confusing client relationships by assuming the role of client liaison, something that is assigned to you the project manager.

When providing direction and feedback own your emotional response to them to avoid conflict. 

This behaviour is often a breach of your personal values, causing you to not trust them and they can evoke an emotional response from you or your team.

Where a breach leads to conflict, they will thrive and it will often be others who are perceived as being out of control, further elevating the silent assassin’s status. 

Once again, the solution is to look beyond the behaviour to the underlying motivators. The silent assassin is, at their core, a career climber and if you can work to support this and ensure they can align ‘appropriate’ performance with long-term career gain you can often mitigate some of their more challenging behaviours. 

Ensure they understand what is expected of them in all areas of the project including ensuring they know the communication channels and the impact of not adhering to these. When providing direction and feedback own your emotional response to them to avoid conflict. 

One key here is to call them on what they do; they might not know they’re doing it and raising their awareness and holding them accountable to their behaviour can create a positive impact. 

Time to embrace

As a leader, you need a heightened awareness of the personalities of those you are working with and what is motivating their behaviours. 

You need different personality type within your team, therefore embrace them. Nurture them to help you achieve the project goals and create environments where they all thrive. Allow your team members to express themselves and be the best versions of themselves they can be.

The key to development is looking at yourself first. Which of the personality types might you be evidencing the behaviours of, what is motivating you to do this and how could you achieve this another way?

About Alison Rood

Alison Rood

Following a 15 year career in project and account management, Alison recognised the necessity for digital project managers to have an enhanced skill set. In 2015, she obtained a postgraduate certificate in the delivery of soft skills and experiential learning. Alison furthered her studies into soft skills by training with author Emma-Sue Prince to become a Licensed Trainer of The Advantage, based on the book of the same name which focuses on the 7 skills for the future. To find out more click here: https://unimenta.com/digitalprojectmanagers/ 

As a trainer and consultant, Alison works with digital project managers to guide and support them to achieve the core skills they need to get ahead; Empathy, Adaptability, Critical Thinking, Integrity, Resilience, Being Proactive, and Optimism. Regularly delivering immersive workshops in London to digital project management professionals and wider industries including the NHS and law firms.

Alison is an intuitive, creative and reflective trainer. She is able to quickly tap into deep issues and help participants reach solutions and come up with an idea. Her experience in digital project management is an added bonus giving Alison a unique steer and strength to support project managers in building awareness of and strengthening the seven Advantage skills.

Emma-Sue Prince, Author of  The Advantage: The 7 Soft Skills You Need to Stay One Step Ahead

FREE WEBINAR

Join us 16th January 2019 @7pm, for 7 soft skills for the future of digital leadership: https://bit.ly/2rsbvEF

 

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