For managers who want to improve team dynamics and productivity, personality assessments can be valuable tools. Proponents say they can help ease conflict, lead to better communication, and even smooth reception to organizational change.
There are numerous personality indicators available. This brief survey of three prominent tools reflect how organizations can uncover—and make the most of—the diverse traits of their employees.
Any time you have different personality types in a room, you open the possibility of conflict. Knowing each team member's behavior when tension runs high can help you coach the group to avoid deadlock or resentment.
This is where The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) can yield practical insights. The TKI helps you and your employees discover whether they might be overusing or underusing one or more of these five conflict-handling modes:
- Competing: a power-oriented mode (assertive and uncooperative)
- Accommodating: a selfless mode (unassertive and cooperative)
- Avoiding: a withdrawing mode (unassertive and uncooperative)
- Collaborating: a fully engaged mode (both assertive and cooperative)
- Compromising: an expedient mode (in the midrange of both assertive and cooperative)
The creators of the TKI say there’s a time and place for using a competing style in conflicts, such as urgent situations that require quick action and results. When misused, however, a competing style can intimidate employees, causing them to withhold their viewpoints.
By helping identifying employees’ (and leaders’) ways of behaving in charged situations, this assessment can teach colleagues how to resolve problems among themselves and give management the tools to support them.
Getting people to accept change can be challenging. Whether conscious or unconscious, employees may fear disruption to routine and some may even resist or even try to undermine new initiatives. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) is a personality inventory that can shed light on how individuals perceive and interact with the world around them. Advocates of the tool say it can offer enlightening glimpses into people's tendencies, which you can use to manage people through stressful changes.
All personality styles have strengths and development needs. They simply differ.
The MBTI® reveals an individual's personality preferences in four areas:
- Extroversion vs. Introversion: How we direct our attention and energy
- Intuition vs. Sensing: How we take in information
- Thinking vs. Feeling: How we process information to make decisions
- Judging vs. Perceiving: How we organize our environment to handle tasks and goals
During times of change, everyone craves information, but not necessarily in the same way. You can use the insights from the MBTI® to adapt your communication approach, depending on people's preferences.
For example, extroverts generally like to be actively engaged in change initiatives. Give them opportunities for face-to-face communication (or, more likely these days, virtual video conferencing). Get them involved in the change process and solicit their input.
Although introverts likely want the opportunity to express an opinion, this group largely prefers to have time to fully digest information first. This can be accomplished by sending written material ahead of meetings and directly asking them for feedback once they’ve had sufficient time to consider.
Addressing Peer Dynamics
- Dominance (D style): direct, strong-willed, persistent, firm, results-oriented
- Influence (I style): enthusiastic, optimistic, sociable, persuasive, inspiring
- Steadiness (S style): steady, stable, patient, relaxed, understanding
- Conscientious (C style): accurate, analytical, reserved, private, systematic
Just as there are strengths, there are also areas of development for each of these styles. Under stress, all four styles are likely to display counterproductive behaviors.
The Dominant style can get a negative rap—sometimes perceived as impatient or domineering. These attributes can cause tension among team members who are not comfortable interacting with a strong ego.
Let your Dominant style team member know that what he or she considers being firm and direct may on occasion come across to others as pushy. To help them improve their work relationship, mentor them on how to tone down their approach and to reign in their intensity for less pressing issues.
Those identified as having Dominant styles may also need coaching on how to show greater empathy. A few ways you can help them do this are:
- Ask them to show the reasoning behind their decisions, so they don't seem arbitrary.
- Remind them to include their fellow team members in the decision-making process and encourage them to acknowledge everyone’s contributions.
- Get them to evaluate the high achievement standards they set for others who may not share the same drive for speed or excellence. Are their standards realistic? Are they too demanding? How might they hinder one's ability to achieve goals?
Assess with Care, Treat Results Judiciously
When employing personality indicators, it's essential to keep judgment at bay. No personality profile is better or worse, and all have strengths and development needs. The value in conducting such exercises is to understand what’s behind your team members’ different behaviors and how to most effectively manage them.
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