Team-Building With Different Personalities

Posted by Kathi Guiney on September 19, 2012, Management Issues | No Comments

We’ve all taken a personality test that tells us we’re a lion or an INTJ, or whatever animal or letter jumble—often as a precursor to being hired at a new company.  In YES! Your Human Resources Solution’s last blog, we talked about the three different A-B-C personality types, their strengths and weaknesses, and how to best manage each in the workplace.  Knowing employee personality tendencies has special applications to management, but a lesser known benefit is that this knowledge can be used to help team members understand each other and work together.

The office is a melting pot of personalities, which can clash over tiny details or which can work together to produce great things not achievable by any one person.  In fact, the productivity of many small businesses depends on these diverse employees working in harmony.  But the way people work as individuals is often different from the way they work in group settings.  So what happens when two employees have such disparate personalities that working together becomes not only a chore, but a potential Human Resources matter?

That’s where team-building events come in.  They can promote tolerance and understanding, and can help to keep two parties out of the HR office.  What’s better, they don’t require detailed analysis of the personalities on your team, and they can be as simple as getting out of the office.

Throw a working party

First things first, coworkers often know each other through only one set of eyes—at work.  So change up the paradigm by changing the setting to a social one.  (This is a great task for your Type B personalities to plan!)  People’s behavior often changes when they’re not facing the pressure of work and are in a more personal, social atmosphere.  An offsite shindig takes the focus off of work and the workplace, and can help employees see each other in a new light.  They may learn they have things in common, and may be more willing to find patience with fundamental personality differences at work.  Don’t forget to come prepared with icebreakers and creative exercises to get the ball rolling!

(For a more intense version of the working party, consider a company retreat.  This day or weekend getaway can help your team work, play, and perhaps live together over a longer duration.)

Work together on creative exercises

Creative exercises are a great way to engage employees and to learn about each other’s personalities, such as through a personality tree.  In this exercise, employees draw the image of a tree to convey their personality traits.  At the roots are fundamental beliefs, the branches represent relationships and hobbies, the buds are hopes and dreams, and the fruits represent successes and achievements.  Employees can share their trees and the reasons behind their choices—and compare each other’s drawing skills.

A modern creative exercise encourages cell phones to be switched on during the meeting.  In this exercise, employees share their ringtone (preferably by playing a sample) and explain why they chose it.  At one company, ringtones varied from The Legend of Zelda music, to the announcement ding from a cruise ship, to the default ringtone programmed into the phone.  Team members should discuss why they chose the ringtone, and others should give feedback as to what ringtones they might have chosen for each other.  This exercise often results in laughs and goes to show how much you can learn about someone based on a ringtone.

Ask questions, find answers

A simple Q&A session might be the most direct way to get different personalities to understand each other.  Like the working party, choose a setting not completely entrenched in work, such as happy hour or a catered lunch, to get the most of this exercise.  Be prepared with questionnaires to encourage conversation.  Be sure to include revealing, thought-provoking questions, such as, “What is your definition of success?” and “What is the most important thing in your life?”  You’re likely to get a variety of personal and professional answers that can help employees get to know each other on a deeper level.


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