Good team design is critical to ensuring the productivity and collaborative creativity of those teams. “High performance” in a team is often tracked to output in numbers, but often it links to how well people get along, communicate, and collaborate. Factors encouraging this include good leadership, policies and work processes, and emotional intelligence, but personality type is always a consideration.
People must fit into a team in such a way as to complement without copying the rest, so that they can work in a fast, efficient, and creative way. Most importantly, teams should be balanced mixes of different personality types and cultures, allowing for diverse opinions, different points of view, and a range of solutions, or a truly “high performance” team.
While eventually only team leads will have true insight into how individuals work together, high performance teams rely on having structure that purposely fits people together. Eventually, this kind of structure must be implemented into the hiring process, into team design, and into HR, so that everyone has the tools to hire and place people in ways that make sense.
Understanding Personality Types
Different organizations utilize different ways to categorize and define how people fit together. In some cases, you may want to use several. For example, Belbin Team Roles maps personalities and then asks 3-5 people to fill out roles that make up a high-performance team.
The most popular personality type indicator is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) which uses 16 personalities loosely mapped to Carl Jung’s Big 5 Personality Framework. MBTI uses four dichotomies, or 8 personality factors to split people into 16 personality types based on how they interact, communicate, and handle themselves and situations. This method is the most common in that 89% of Fortune 500 companies utilize it during the hiring process.
Most organizations eventually utilize a personality indicator alongside a core competency or behavioral model for teams. This allows you to map skills and personality traits to what is already in the team, enabling better decisions and better team matches.
One of the easiest examples is creativity. If you were to take a single 5-person team and form it entirely out of people who excel at creating new things, you’d have a very creative team on your hand. They could collaborate to innovate processes, work, and tools across your organization.
If you make that same team out of people who excel at improving existing work, you have a team that would excel at maintenance, overhead, and day-to-day work. But, if you were to go half and half, you’d have a divided team that would be disadvantageous to itself.
Major Types of Communication
Communication is one of the most important factors of teamwork, and there are many types of communicators. MBTI groups people into four types, which can be further condensed into two types (SP and NF). The four types are:
Thinking – Thinking persons are decisive, systematic, and logical. They are critical, analytical, and judgmental, but communicate in straightforward, and clear-cut fashions. While this makes communication easy and can be very valuable on a team that wants to communicate and move forward quickly, it can be perceived as arrogant, condescending, and aggressive to more emotional thinkers.
Feeling – This group is sympathetic, warm, sociable, and supportive. Feeling types are warm, will go out of their way to be diplomatic and tactful, and will consider the emotions of most people in a room. On the flip side, they can be dramatic, emotional, sentimental, and fussy. Balancing these types with more decisive types is important.
Sensing – Sensing types are realistic and practical with a focus on concise and efficient communication, often at the expense of emotions. This can cause clashes with feeling types, because they can appear to be cold, demanding, and harsh.
Intuitive – Intuitive types often bridge Thinking and Sensing types with Feeling types, but bring their own adaptable and versatile approach. They communicate perceptively but with emotion, make changes based on facts and emotions, and are resourceful. They may also be impulsive, be easily bored, and may have unrealistic expectations.
Other frameworks utilize different types of communication, but it’s important that your communication types complement and get along. In most cases, you want to pay the most attention to abstract versus concrete thinkers, Feeling and Intuitive people tend to prefer to communicate in abstracts and guidelines, Sensing and Thinking people tend to prefer to communicate in precise words and exacts.
Creating a Balance of Personalities
Any team dynamic should be composed of balance, cognitive diversity, and variety. Individuals should be able to challenge each other to drive creativity and to build new things. If you simply fit like-minded people with like-minded people, you create silos, echo chambers where everyone simply agrees with a few louder thought leaders. The team becomes static and rarely creative.
HR should introduce and manage cognitive diversity as part of team structure. This means looking for different types of complementary personalities. It also means looking at culture, information processing styles, education, and work experience, but personality will play a huge role. Importantly, if you do introduce diverse personalities into a team, it’s critical to follow up, ensure that everyone is communicating well and with empathy, and that leaders are able to recognize and work with the different communication and personality styles present in the team.
It’s also important to look for balance. Diversity for the sake of diversity can be a mistake if it creates clashes or communication styles that are completely opposite.
There’s No Wrong Personality Type
While personality types can be valuable for helping you to build a diverse team, it’s important to keep in mind that no personality type makes someone uniquely suited for something. There’s no wrong personality type. Consider using your personality framework as a loose matrix of what is wanted or required rather than a die-hard rule. People can and will sometimes fit all the requirements and more, while not showing those requirements on a test, especially if that test is taken under pressure.
Your best option is always to ensure that your recruiter is cognizant, aware of how people work, and able to make judgement calls using perception as well as direct test results.
Personality frameworks are an extremely useful way to improve team design and team structure, simply because they give you factors to look for that help teams communicate and collaborate more efficiently.