Human Resources

Different Personalities, One Team

By Erin Wortham

One of the great challenges in human resources and training is creating a single productive team made up of many diverse personalities. With tips on how to meet this challenge, we present an article by Erin Wortham, people engagement manager at Insights Learning and Development.

“We don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are,” Anaïs Nin once wrote. One place where it’s apparent that people hold different perspectives of the world and themselves is in the workplace. Realizing this—and acknowledging this in ourselves—is the first step toward building a team that can work well together in spite of differences, which may even lead to valuing diversity as a source of ideas and strength.

One of the most common differences encountered in the business world is between introverted and extroverted preferences. On a bad day, people who prefer these different preferences can be in a meeting and completely speak past each other or even come away with an entirely different impression of what took place and what priorities were agreed on. Often, this is a result of each person’s personality preference speaking to the other in the way that they, personally, prefer to communicate, rather than in the way their teammate prefers to communicate.

By learning to view the world through different perspectives and being open to adjusting our behavior in the interest of adapting and connecting, each of us can help build a team at work that’s composed of complementary strengths and weaknesses. Here are some tips on how to better understand your coworkers and build the foundation for strong collaboration:

1. Pretend You’re a Private Eye

Make some observations of your own. Play detective by taking the time to spot clues about others’ preferences on your team by studying body language, verbal style, interactions, and preferred work environment. What can you pick up about them?

Do they like working in quiet spaces or prefer to be in the center of the action? Do they seem comfortable in social environments or more at home at their desk working independently? Do they speak to process their thoughts or need time to themselves to prepare speaking points before presenting? Answers to these questions can help you recognize if your teammates lean toward an introverted or extroverted preference.

People who lead with an extroverted preference make up as much as 75% of the population, and sometimes it may seem that reward systems and job recognition are generally set up to value their extroverted energy.

“Typically, extroverts see introverts as unsocial, inadequate, shy, secretive and aloof non-contributors,” Jim Lew, a diversity trainer and organizational development expert, told Business News Daily. On the other hand, “Introverts describe extroverts as aggressive, egotistical, unaware, rude and socially needy. While there may be a kernel of truth to these generalizations, the tone is angry and accusatory, rather than appreciative.”

The goal in building and nurturing a solid team dynamic is to get beyond “angry and accusatory” by being open to different types of communication and willing to adjust your own style in order to tap into the strength of your team. An important part of getting to the point where teammates are appreciating one another’s differences is by understanding what your own interpersonal preferences are. Learning and development solutions that use personality assessments can be helpful in diagnosing your own disposition as well as those of others you work with.

In tomorrow’s Advisor, Wortham provides more tips for building your team.