How to manage different personality types

Wednesday 16 October 2019
Knowledge is power when it comes to different personality types – but don’t put people into rigid personality boxes.
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Different people work and think differently. It shouldn’t be too much of a revelation, but Reetu Kansal CMgr FCMI believes it is something that a lot of people forget. Managers often get bogged down in their own to-do lists, she says, and don’t spend enough time observing their teams and how they might work.

“Most thriving organisations have cultures that nurture people and tap into their different strengths.”

By understanding the different personality types on your team, you can deploy them better in order to help them reach their full potential. You can better manage any conflicts that might arise between employees. You can also tailor your communication to ensure you can nurture and develop your team more effectively.

Myers Briggs and other psychometric tests

“I do like to work off evidence,” says Kansal. “I know psychometric testing has its critics, but when used within reason, it can give you an indication of where the strengths of your team lies.”

Myers Briggs is one of the most well known. This system maps different personalities into 16 types, based on four factors:

  1. Is the person introverted or extroverted?
  2. Do they focus on basic information (sensing) or do they interpret and add meaning (intuition)?
  3. When making decisions, do they prefer to first look at logic and consistency (thinking) or at people and special circumstances (feeling)?
  4. Do they like to make concrete decisions (judging) or do they stay open to new information and options (perceiving)?

For example, if someone is an extroverted, intuition, feeling and perceiving type (ENFP), they tend to be enthusiastic, imaginative, creative, open and spontaneous. Whereas an ISTJ personality type (which stands for introversion, sensing, thinking, judgment) is systematic, logical, detail-oriented, and organised.

Kansal advises against relying solely on these tests to categorise your team members (“you can end up putting them in boxes.”). Instead, use them as a basis for your understanding, paired with your own observations, emotional intelligence and empathy. “You can’t do these tests and treat it like it’s set in stone. People change and organisations evolve as well.”

Take a wider view

“It's useful to understand the balance of personality types in your team and your organisation,” says Hugo Minney CMgr, director at The Change Consultancy. “For example, if you understand that most of the team are practical and only one or two are innovative, then the practical people won't be so frustrated by the innovators, and the innovators won't feel undermined by the practical.”

Minney advocates including your team in the process of determining the personality makeup of the team; most of the work in managing different personality types is in knowing that they exist, he says. His company has created an app that monitors culture for its clients. “We can diagnose a problem, give the client a trajectory for change, and let them monitor whether the change is progressing in the way we said it would.”

Be conscious in recruitment

Through that work,The Change Consultancy has collected data on the personality breakdowns of different companies. In SMEs, the personality makeup is often unbalanced, Minney explains – everyone fits the same mould as the directors. “We explain the risks and challenges of appointing someone who isn't your clone when you obviously like people like yourself more.”

This carries inherent risks. As CMI’s chief executive Ann Francke puts it in her new book, “when everyone comes from the same social and experiential background – say, white, middle-aged, male and Ivy League or Oxbridge – everyone is far more likely to think the same. And far less likely to challenge each other’s decision or introduce a different slant or perspective.”

Effectively managing different personality types starts at the recruitment stage. By understanding your own personality, and the personalities you’re likely to be biased towards, you can be more strategic in your hires by filling talent gaps that you might miss out on if your hires are homogenous.

Looking for other ways we can help you manage your team? Read our new insights into bringing out the best in people, no matter their personality type.

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