Does a personality type matter?

Rik de Groot

A good team can make or break the success of a project. Where does this success come from? Is it the way of cooperation or is it the mixture of the right personality types in a team? Do you pick the right personalities and make them work together or does it happen naturally?

Different personality types contribute to a successful team. Although behavior can differ from a personality, it forms a base of behavior people feel comfortable with. Knowing your personality type can help you understand what makes you tick. This self-awareness is an important factor in being successful. In general a personality type will define 1) your flow of energy, 2) how you take in information, 3) how you prefer to make decisions, 4) the basic day-to-day lifestyle that you prefer.

Many methods can help discover personality types. Myers-Briggs type indicator, (i)DISC assessment, Enneagram of personality, etc. supply tests in order to figure out what personality type people have. Some of these methods need intensive testing, and are therefore hard to apply without doing the actual test. However some of the elements of a type can be noticed without intensive testing. For instance the way people get their energy. Do they get their energy from within themselves or from external sources? Do they absorb information in principles or in details? Are they comfortable with scheduled/structured or open/casual environments? Knowing these preferences it will be easier to approach and work with other person.

In a team people often differ, but are these differences always bad? Some people see these differences as a flaw that needs to be corrected. However the personality type (or character) cannot be changed, so why bother? And even if you can change the personality type of a person does it help the project? Having only one type in a team will slow down the project. For instance, a team full of inspirers will hardly finish anything. After creating an idea they will get bored long before the project is finished. Different personality types in a team can complement each other and create a successful team.

Having a team with different personality types will probably result in a project failure if the people approach each other in the way they feel comfortable. For instance an intuitive person can handle fuzzy data (for instance, the entrance is located at the north side of the building) whereas sensing persons need concrete data (for instance after 50m you take a turn of 90 degrees and after 10m you will find the entrance of the building). Knowing team members’ personality type means knowing strengths, weaknesses and the way of approaching each other. When taking this into account a team is more effective.

Working together in a team will normally go through the following stages: 1) Forming, 2) Storming, 3) Norming, 4) Performing, 5) Adjourning. In relation to the personality types, the norming stage is important. In this stage expectations, styles, roles, etc. are set. During this stage strengths and weaknesses need to be discovered in order to prevent conflicts or hurt feelings. Listening and understanding the team members can help to support and complement each other.

In conclusion a personality-type does matter! It will help to understand what makes you tick. This self-awareness is the key to being successful. However a personality type indicates preferences and does not indicate the strength of ability of a person. Knowing these preferences it will help understanding other team members and work in a more effective way.

Comments (4)

  1. Vikas Hazrati - Reply

    December 14, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    Having a team with different personality types will probably result in a project failure if the people approach each other in the way they feel comfortable.

    Interesting read. I have observed the other way round that if the team does have varied personality types then it is much better than the team with the same personality types.

    Imagine a team having all members who are too submissive to client requests and meekly follow the direction client suggests. This team would be able to bring out less value add to the client.
    On the other hand a team with all vocal and challenging members is not good either as there would always be a conflict with ideas and get little work done.
    So you need a mixed diverse team, even agile celebrates diversity in a team.

    That said i agree with the fact that people should approach each other in the way they feel comfortable.

  2. Rik de Groot - Reply

    December 14, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    You are right Vikas. Like I stated in “Different personality types in a team can complement each other and create a successful team.” a mixed team is important in order to create a successful team.

    The phrase you quoted is about how people absorb information. When taking this in account a team can be more effective. However “Groupthink” should be avoided. Groupthink may cause teams to make hasty, irrational decisions, where individual doubts are set aside, for fear of upsetting the group’s balance.

  3. Mary - Reply

    January 12, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    Sorry for the very late reaction:
    Some reading about this topic: "Teamwork is an individual skill" by Christopher M. Avery
    Or you can also go to: http://www.christopheravery.com/press_media_kit.htm. and download an article about his 'theory'
    Perhaps it gives you some more insight and when you don't agree discuss it.
    Mary

  4. Janice Pence - Reply

    July 29, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    This is so true – varying Personality Types will act and behave differently around each other. Some Personality Types are just toxic around each other – and having them on a Team can mean the failure of any project.

    So when you design a Team – is it better to have varying viewpoints? If you had a little of each Personality Type then perhaps it will all even itself out right? Out of all of the Myers Briggs Personality Types are there ones that you must have on a Team?

    I’ve personally found its better to have types that work together rather than a mix of everyone - the rifle approach rather than the shot gun. Does anyone have any suggestions? I’ve worked through many Team building sessions only to see my work be torn apart by one or two persons on the team.

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