Let’s face it: the most challenging aspect of every project implementation is forming and managing an effective team. People have different personalities, different backgrounds, and different approaches. Using those differences to your advantage is complicated and often, seemingly impossible. However, an effective manager can harness those differences and turn them into opportunities to accomplish the various goals of the project.
Most of the team member personalities you will encounter will fall into one of these categories:
- Power Player
- Steadfast Player
I’d like to dive into each so you have a better understanding of each personality type and how to leverage to get the best results from your team members.
Power players are often more aggressive than other members of the team. They like to take control, and they’re good at what they do and they know it. They are ambitious, well organized, task-oriented, and quick to make decisions.
How best to work with them: Task power players with things that need immediate attention (firefighting) and more challenging work that requires creative solutioning and navigating ambiguous circumstances. They need to feel like they are solving important problems and checking things off their to-do list, and you’ll get the best out of them by appealing to their logical side while steering clear of emotions. Be direct with assignments, due dates, and expectations, and always use a no-nonsense approach with these team members.
Steadfast players are steady and calm. They like to think optimistically and often give the team encouragement during trying times. These team members have a strong work ethic and typically listen to others before giving their own opinions. Job security is very important to steadfast players, and they tend to be sensitive and feed off of recognition. Although it often takes them longer to make decisions, their work is always complete with few errors.
How best to work with them: Give them long-term detail-oriented projects. Manage steadfast players with personable calm direction and avoid sarcasm or negativity in your discussions with them, as steadfast players may not interpret your words the way you intend them.
Analysts are the team members that like to get into the nitty-gritty details, and they love to learn. However, they are usually slow to make decisions because they want to meticulously analyze every data point and detail first. Analysts often like to play devil’s advocate, which can be good, since they’ll bring up valid points or concerns that help get other team members thinking about things from a different point of view.
How best to work with them: Give them tasks that require deep analytical investigation and number crunching. They tend to want to only focus on factual information and are not generally interested in chit-chat, so don’t waste your air on niceties.
Loners thrive when working independently. They just want to do their job and not be involved in things that are not specifically about work, like chatting about last night’s ball game with team members. They are usually reserved and extremely focused, and they often need extra coaching on the importance of being part of the team.
If permitted to ignore other team members, loners will end up not fully engaged, which could lead to them not being focused on the correct initiatives.
How best to work with them: Sometimes, loners do better in certain group dynamics than others. Make sure they are in a team where they can feel comfortable coming out of their shells and can contribute in a way that lets them shine.
Grumblers are the pessimists of the group. They think everyone is incompetent except them, and are often grumpy and sarcastic. They may bring up valid concerns that should be considered, but they may be just as likely to hold up decisions or progress with constant objections and roadblocks. To further complicate matters, grumblers may in fact be very good at what they do, either because they are critical subject matter experts or grizzled veterans who ‘have seen it all,’ so their contributions may in fact be indispensable, all of which makes managing them effectively ever more important.
How best to work with them: Use a direct approach with grumblers. Give them the facts and clear expectations, but avoid using reasoning that is based on emotions, or tasking them with work with a high degree of uncertainty that requires novel or creative improvisation. Allow them to have a voice, but make sure they understand the importance of having a supportive environment where everyone feels comfortable making suggestions without being criticized. If needed, use private smaller forums to have a dialogue where you can allow them to express themselves in their style but where in doing so it doesn’t sour the mood of the larger team.
In general, one of the most important aspects of leading a team is understanding what motivates and drives each of the members, and that will vary wildly from one person to the next. Try to keep your team balanced. If the team has too many analysts, there will be little creativity. If the team has too many sensitive steadfast players, it may take too long to make decisions and move forward. If you’re staffed with all power players you may end up spending the majority of your time managing egos, and if you’ve got too many grumblers you’re unlikely to get anything done at all. Picking the right mix for your team and learning to adapt your communication and management style to each of these personality types will help you get more out of your team regardless of the challenge at hand.