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Understanding the different traits of your team members is an essential part of effective management. There are many traits that strongly influence the way your employees work, interact and resolve conflict. Here are examples.

Knowing the communication style of each of your team members can help you determine who you assign to work together on a specific task. Pairing two passive communicators together, for example, might not be as effective as placing a passive communicator with an assertive one. On the other hand, if you know a certain team member is overly aggressive, you can help that person work towards a more effective style of communication - ultimately increasing his or her productivity and effectiveness on the team.

It is also useful to know the core values of your team members. People tend to work well together when they share core values, such as integrity, efficiency, accountability and perseverence. Identifying values held in common by your team members can help you structure and motivate the group around goals that promote them.

Over-arching personality types can be useful as well. Some members of your group might be easily identified as strategizers while others are problem solvers. This means that some might be better to handle "big picture" tasks, while others are better suited to equally important, but more focused tasks.

What Does This Mean For The Person In Charge?

For team managers and company leaders, an understanding of the nuanced distinctions between employees can guide work on a daily basis, influencing communication with individuals, and decisions around team structure.

So how can leaders gain understanding of the traits of those on the team?

The most efficient way is to conduct personal assessments. There are many from which to chose, and each one has different benefits and drawbacks.

Four of the most effective, in my experience, are:

1. The Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI):

Ned Hermann developed the HBDI while he was a manager at General Electric in the 1970s. Working from the pioneering brain research of Roger Sperry, Paul Mclean, Joseph Bogen and Michael Gazzaniga, Hermann developed a metaphor for understanding the brain as divided into four quadrants. Hermann used this metaphorical understanding to develop a questionnaire that reveals people's preferred thinking strategies - of which, there are four basic categories:

  1. Analytical
    Analytical thinking involves critical, logical, or technical thinking about quantitative or factual data. People who's thinking style is dominated by this quadrant of the brain prefer tasks that involve things like data collection and analysis, or logical reasoning about how things work. Generally speaking, they make their decisions and judgements based on the hard facts available to them rather than emotions or hunches.
  2. Sequential
    Sequential thinkers are detail-oriented and well organized. They tend to take a structured and well planned approach to their work and excel at tasks that involve following directions, step-by-step problem solving, or implementing an organizational strategy.
  3. Interpersonal
    People whose thinking style is dominated by the interpersonal quadrant of the brain are primarily emotional, spiritual, and sensory. They thrive in group settings and enjoy tasks that involve listening to and expressing ideas, while searching for the deeper meanings these ideas contain.
  4. Imaginative
    This final thinking style is employed by "big picture" thinkers. They tend to be the most innovative and conceptual of the four. Imaginative thinkers tend to excel at tasks that allow them to take initiative, challenge assumtions and engage in metaphoric thinking. They are great at thinking "outside the box" and formulating long term strategies.

Remember There Are Mixed "Thinking" Types

While it is helpful to separate thinking styles out in this way, this doesn't mean that any one person perfectly fits into any single category. Rather people tend to employ a combination of thinking styles, or employ one rather than another in different sorts of situations.

A person might use analytical thinking 50% of the time, imaginative thinking 23% of the time, and so on. The HBDI is meant to assess the particular weighted configuration of thinking styles present in an individual or group. People and groups tend to excel when the four thinking styles are well balanced, so getting an idea of the makeup of your employees and team members can help you identify what's missing or what needs to be augmented.

2. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI):

Like the HBDI, the MBTI is an assessment that is designed to help determine the basic personality of the the test-taker. Rather than focusing on thinking styles however, the MBTI is a more broadly concerned with a person's basic outlook on the world and how this influences their decision making. The categories tested by the MBTI are extrapolated from psychoanalyst Carl Jung's four principal psychological functions as expressed in his 1921 work Psychological Types.

When used in a business setting, the MBTI helps gain insight into your team member's decision-making preferences. It does not, however, measure aptitude. This makes it a valuable tool for helping leaders to communicate with team members effectvely and to structure tasks in a way that will help them succeed. It does not necessarily tell you who on your team will be good or bad at any given task.

For team members who take the assessment, the MBTI is a valuable tool for revealing implicit preferences in thinking that users may not have been aware of. This helps them to see new possible ways of approaching problems or tasks, and to develop new (and perhaps more effective) strategies for doing so. In this way, the MBTI represents a real opportunity for the personal growth of you and your team.

Of the assessment tools we are discussing here, the MBTI has been around the longest. For this reason there is a myriad of updated and/or modified versions. If you want to use the MBTI, make sure you pick the version that best suits your goals.

3. The DISC Assessment:

Like the previous two assessment tools, DISC breaks down the basic personality traits into four groups. DISC is an acronym for Dominance Inducement Submission and Compliance. The four basic personality types are determined by two basic factors: how one views their environment in relation to them as either favourable or unfavourable and how one views themselves in relation to their environment as either more or less powerful than it.

According to several different online sources, the four types thus break down simply in this way:

  • Dominance
    Perceives oneself as more powerful than the environment, and perceives the environment as unfavorable.
  • Inducement
    Perceives oneself as more powerful than the environment, and perceives the environment as favorable.
  • Submission
    Perceives oneself as less powerful than the environment, and perceives the environment as favorable.
  • Compliance
    Perceives oneself as less powerful than the environment, and perceives the environment as unfavorable.

The aim of the assessment is to reveal how people emotionally respond to their environment. Thus, as a business tool, the DISC assessment can provide leaders with valuable information, not only about the members of the team, but also how the workplace setting they engage is perceived.

While a spread of results is to be expected, if there are certain trends in the results of the DISC assessment, you may want to address this. For instance, if the majority of your employees perceive their environment as unfavourable, there may be something you could do about this.

As with the MBTI, there are a lot of different companies out there offering assessments based on the DISC model and some are simply better than others. Make sure you do your research before picking the one you will use.

4. Job-Screen Applicants? Try the Harrison Assessment

So far we've talked about assessments that are useful for evaluating and structuring your organization as it currently exists. But assessments are useful for growing your business in another way too.

The Harrison Assessment offers a whole suite of assessments that are appropriate for pre-hire, for screening job applicants and assessing how their skills and strengths track against a job description. The assessment tests for 175 traits of an applicant and is based on over 20 years of research in to what makes a high-performing employee tick. Thus, unlike the other assessment tools we've discussed, the Harrison Assessment tests for aptitude as well as thinking, communication, or personality types.

An additional advantage of performing assessments like the Harrison during the hiring process is that it eliminates any question of unfair hiring practices. The Harrison Assessment give you hard data to point to in order to make sure that no applicant is refused because of personal bias or discrimination. In the event a refused applicant attempts a legal claim that they were denied because of discrimination, it provides evidence of objective reasons they were not hired.

Assessments like these identify important characteristics about the individual members on a team and knowledge of these characteristics is invaluable. Once gained, leaders can use this knowledge to eliminate gaps in their productivity, and turn weaknesses into opportunities to grow. Picking the right one for your specific situation can be tricky because there are a lot out there. When I work with business leaders, I help them navigate this decision and make sure they get the one that will work best for them.


Larry Hart

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