How personality influences performance
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Maybe they’re just “born this way” — how personality influences team performance

When I first became a manager I was lucky. A lot of new managers are handed a team hired or chosen by someone else. I had the opportunity to choose my own team. I picked 2 of the smartest engineers in the company, then I went out and hired 3 more really brilliant team members – two more engineers and one marketer. I was sure that I had picked up smart folks: they had high grade point averages, solid experience in other companies, and were people I’d enjoy going out for a beer with. This team was going to be great!

How personality influences performance

Six months in – it was a different story. The synergy of the whole team was not greater than the sum of its parts – it was, in fact, remarkably less. Performance was abysmal. The marketing manager ran around the company pissing everyone off, the smartest engineer I had couldn’t finish anything and the team as a whole was behind schedule. We were underperforming in practically every way. The one place we exceeded expectations was in the “getting a beer” department. It was great fun, but didn’t make my work day any easier!

At that time the company I was a part of had an Organizational Psychologist as a consultant who periodically came in to work with the leadership team. I always felt funny talking to her, like if my team needed a shrink I was in real trouble, right? But I was desperate – so I scheduled some time with her. She suggested using a personality profile tool to look at the makeup of my team and see if we could understand why they were under-performing.

We all took an online assessment, then she met with each of us one-on-one to explain the results. After that, she met with us all together so we could share our results and she could help us understand how, as a team, we could work better.

As we sat in that conference room and put our profiles up on the board, the roots of all the problems that we were having revealed themselves. You could see how the smartest guy on the team had a personality that made it hard for him to finish anything. You could see the independence and introversion of the marketing manager and how that led her to piss everyone off (without even knowing it). It was all there! And we all recognized it together – laughing when someone’s profile described them exactly and nodding soberly when the consultant explained how Mark’s profile would make it hard for him to see eye-to-eye with Garret.

But even more important than seeing it, was the fact that we could talk about it. I could say, “Amid, I can see that you want to get things right, can we agree on what right enough would look like so that we can eventually finish a project?” A constructive discussion followed, and we were able to agree on “right enough”. It wasn’t long before I started to see projects moving again. I could say, “Maria, you see the conflicts that you have caused throughout the organization, are you willing to learn to be more sensitive and listen to the concerns of other departments?” She admitted that she wasn’t and we helped her to move on to another organization.

These personality profiles gave me tremendous insight into how I would talk to and motivate my team. I realized that I led from a very egocentric place. I’m confident and a great communicator…so why wasn’t I getting the performance I was asking for from the people I evaluated as well up to the task? What I learned is that not everyone responds well to the leadership style I’m most comfortable with. When I was able to understand where individuals on my team were coming from and allow that understanding to drive my approach to them – instead of relying on my impression of where everyone was coming from – I was amazed at the impact it had on productivity and performance. I actually put the diagram with the everyone’s profile on the back of my door. When I found myself dealing with a particularly thorny issue I would close my door and it was right there, staring me in the face. The answer I needed was almost always on that diagram!

Now I won’t hire anyone without looking at their profile. I have a rigorous interview process, but how well can I really know someone after 2 or 3 interviews? The profile gives me insights that it would take me months, or years to realize on my own. And let me tell you, it is a lot easier finding out through an assessment and discussing results where your employee fits or may not fit in their role or with their team than addressing these issues because they have become problematic in the workplace.

Are you having some communication issues on your team? Do you feel like you have talented people who just aren’t performing the way you expect them too? Or maybe you are just tired of the conflict and drama between team members. Give us a call – we are using the same tool that gave me so much insight with my first team years ago. With it, we are helping our clients improve hiring, communication and performance of their teams today!

Photo Credit: Cea.

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