Team Building

By Dr. Paul Swamidass

If you are a leader or manager of people, you already know the following about the people at work, in your community, or at home:  people are different, and differ in many respects, such as: 

  •  motivation, inspiration, and expectations;
  • the way in which they relate to others and build relationships;
  • ability to work with detail and to see the big picture;
  • getting things done within a time limit, being goal-focused, and making quick decisions;
  • telling others what to do, giving advice, or pleasing others; and
  • using logic and seeking data for making a decision.
The differences among people are the consequence of different personality styles. Learning to understand and work with diverse personalities is critical to a manager or team leader.
DISC: Four personality styles
One popular training model called the DISC model, originally introduced in the 1920s by psychologist William Marston, says that all people fall under four different personality types. This model has survived the test of time. It is a very simple yet powerful tool for teaching personality types to leaders and team members for working with others effectively; the model also has an uncanny way of improving our understanding of yourself and others.
The four personality types are Dominant [D], Influence seeking [I], Steady or peace-seeking [S], and Conscientious [C].( A full explanation of the different personality types can be found at Changingminds.Org.) There are considerable differences among the four personality styles.
To cement the idea of personality types in your mind, associate the personality type with examples: Steve Jobs and Donald Trump are strong D personalities, always eager to change or move something; Arsenio Hall with a ready smile and back-slapping demeanor is a strong I; sports coaches such as John Wooden, who was able to understand, analyze and communicate the minutiae of basketball to his players, are strong examples of C; and you may know examples of S personalities, who are not out to change the world .” 
Personality styles broaden with age
While personalities may seem to be cast in stone early in life, with age, people develop additional personality styles not natural to them. For example, a teenager I  may be very high in C and strong in D but, 10 to 20 years later as a professional, may have developed the I dimension to become a more balanced individual and a more effective employee and family member. It is not uncommon for a person to have one primary, strong personality type with a secondary personality type that is also noticeable.
How to build better teams?
With time, a leader or team member can become reasonably good at ascertaining the personality styles of people they work  with. With an understanding of personality styles from a system like DISC,  you can substantially reduce the chances for misunderstanding, miscommunication, and conflict and expect better teamwork and effectiveness.
A leader can make working relationships most effective by accommodating individual strengths and weaknesses and by fitting the task to an employee’s strength. For jobs requiring a strong decisive person, who is not likely to be pushed around by people or circumstances, a D would be a better fit. For a job requiring considerable people contact and people skills, like sales, an I personality would be a better fit. For a job needing a lot of attention to detail and minimal supervision, such as computer professionals, accountants and engineers, a C may be a better fit. For a job needing a lot of people contact without being overbearing or threatening, an S personality may be better suited for the job. Do not demand something an individual’s personality style cannot deliver.
Another model used by those who train corporate teams for innovation is the FourSight model ( It recommends innovation teams composed of members with varying skills such as Ideator, Clarifier, Developer, and Implementer.
In each case, the principle is the same. A diverse team is an asset. You can get the most out of a diverse team through your knowledge of the people you work with. By focusing on the diversity of strengths that the personality styles of team members bring to the table, a team can accomplish more and avoid destructive bickering.

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