GS

22 Nov 2018

137. MANAGING A MIX OF CHARACTERS

Great teams are not made of up lots of similar personalities, but of people with different characters, backgrounds and viewpoints. That makes the leader’s job even more of a challenge.

Words: Jeremy Snape, Sporting Edge

For a team to perform at its best and, perhaps more importantly, to develop and improve, its members need to collaborate. Oddly, though, for effective collaboration to take place you need individuality rather than conformity. Everyone in the organisation needs to feel that they are able to contribute their own ideas and make their mark, and only then will they truly engage with the team’s objectives and take ownership of its results.

As a leader, you can foster collaboration by helping each team member to shine as an individual. Create a work environment and culture where all contributions are welcomed and taken on board, and make it clear that you are listening. When people are afraid to challenge ideas or to express opinions that go against the grain, it can encourage ‘groupthink’, resulting in poor quality decision making and stasis.

Of course, while having a diverse range of personality types has many benefits, it presents one of the biggest tests for a leader, because different characters can’t be managed effectively using a blanket approach.

Some characters will be easier to deal with than others and, while some traits have the potential to lift and energise the team, others may be disruptive to team dynamics and behaviour. If you lack the experience or skills to manage these people quickly and effectively, it can drain your time and energy and put the brakes on progress.

As soon as possible after taking charge of a team, you will need to get to know each member as individuals. But rather than leaving it at that, continue to hold one-to-one meetings at regular intervals throughout the year to maintain your understanding of who your team members are, what drives them, what’s bothering them and what helps them to improve.

FINDING A BALANCE

It would be easy to think that everyone would get along if we simply agreed with one another all the time. Being surrounded by people who nod and let your decisions go unchallenged isn’t, however, as good as it seems. Mr Nice Guy types know how to play the game; they are the indestructible black boxes in a team crisis, but too nice to blame.

It’s also important, when you have these characters in your team, to ensure the leader-follower line doesn’t blur, and keep them focused on getting the job done, with clear objectives and accountabilities. While they will want to please everyone, they must understand that you are the leader and you set the tone. Use data and evidence to provide objective feedback, and ensure that it never feels personal, but is instead about people working well together to hit the standards required.

WINNING PERSONALITIES

Of all the main character types you’ll find in your team, the maverick may well be the most challenging to manage, because although they give a great deal to the team, they also take. Conversations with you may, at times, become animated as they attempt to mark their territory. When this happens, address issues early and in private, rather than doing it publicly, which may dent their pride.

As a leader, there is only so much you can do to manage the blend of personalities in your organisation, but recruiting on values and character as much as talent can make a big difference. When seeking new talent, think carefully about the mix of people in your team and how new members might enhance or disrupt that dynamic.