In organizations, having human beings of all different stripes working together can be quite a complex undertaking.
With all the personalities, pre-wired dispositions, and learned behaviors, managing and leading a team of people toward unified goals can almost seem impossible.
Fortunately, we have instruments and tools to help us!
I have learned a lot from instruments designed to help me understand my own personality types. Some of these personality-type tools give results that are expressed as letter combinations such as ENTJ or ESTJ.
Once these letter combination results are generated, books and other resources are required to help us remember what our letters mean, how to interact with people based on their letter combinations, etc.
Other personality type tools are very simple and are based on labels like Lion, Warrior, Nurturer, or Teacher.
I have learned a great deal from both of these different tools and recommend them for different purposes.
Some are Easier to Remember
For the process of team development, I have found that label-based personality type tools tend to be easy to remember, and this is critical in the process of building trust and safety.
For example, I am an “ENTJ” according to Myers-Briggs, and a Warrior or Lion according other simpler tools.
It is easier for my team members to remember that I am a Warrior than it is for them to remember that I am an ENTJ. And it is a lot easier to remember the positive and negative traits of a Warrior than it is to remember the personality traits that an ENTJ typically displays.
The Medicine Wheel
Of all these tools, my favorite is the Medicine Wheel. C Clinton Sidle offers a very good variation on the Medicine Wheel in his book, The Leadership Wheel.
I highly recommend this book as it provides supervisors with a good description of the various Leadership Wheel types and how to work with them to develop healthy relationships, teams, and organizations.
The basics of the Medicine Wheel
- Warrior/North – Positive: courageous, takes charge and willing to take risks. Shadow: may bulldoze others and can be very hurtful.
- Nurturer/South – Positive: wise, patient and understanding. Shadow: may hesitate to move forward if there is any disagreement.
- Critical Thinker/West – Positive: detailed oriented, can analyze lots of information. Shadow: may hesitate to move forward without all the necessary information, can suffer from analysis/paralysis.
- Visionary/East – Positive: Creative and innovative. Shadow: may not be detailed oriented and things may “fall through the cracks.”
Incorporating personality types into the team culture
So how do you do this? How does a supervisor identify the personality types of the team and begin the balancing process? Unlike identifying strengths, I cannot find an online survey that gives us our Medicine Wheel personality type.
I feel this is actually a benefit because it forces us to think carefully and self-identify.
Many people struggle selecting one type that defines them.
- Some people feel that they are in between two types.
- Others feel that they can identify with aspects from all areas of the Wheel.
When people struggle, I explain that there is no correct answer. I tell them that the point is to pick the one type that most closely describes them. Sometimes the shadow areas are the ones that tells us where we fit.
Recalibrate Your Team
The team retreat and applying strengths
A good way to start the process of team building is to schedule a 2-3 hour retreat to cover team strengths and team make-up. Based on the results of the retreat, the supervisor can work with all team members to apply their strengths to minimize the tendencies of the shadow areas.
Information on the retreat and how to balance shadow areas by leveraging strengths, can be found here.
Documenting and sharing the team’s personality mix
By documenting the strengths as well as the personality-mix of the team with an easy-to-access reference tool, all team members, including the supervisor, will develop an understanding of how to maximize every member’s positive traits while minimizing their negative tendencies.
Combining strengths with positive personality traits will start reducing conflict and growing a sense of confidence in the team.
This is key to better performance.
Through the years of working with my strength themes and those of my staff members, I have learned that while identifying strength themes and personality traits are important and critical steps, the process of sharing this information requires a lot of trust.
The subject of trust is the focus of my next article, “6 Steps to Sustainable Teams, Step 3: Foundational Safety & Trust.
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Image Sources: nomadicneill.com