How to build a dream team
The business section of bookshops is filled with books on team building and culture. Many of them provide practical strategies to implement. Some of the strategies work while others do not, so it is really a ‘trial and error’ type exercise.
However, this approach is akin to treating the symptom without understanding the cause, which is ultimately attributable to the fact that people are different. This makes ‘one size fits all’ solutions an inexact science. In contrast, understanding each of your team member’s personality and the collective personality of the entire team is a valuable tool that could give your team that extra edge to succeed.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a personality instrument that assesses an individual’s personality type by sorting people into categories by way of their innate preferences. Unlike other personality assessment instruments that measure personality traits, ability, or character, the MBTI categorises people into sixteen ‘types’ with the purpose of helping people and groups understand each other’s differences. All the types are equal and no single type is better than the other.
The MBTI is used by about 2 million people across the world each year and is prolifically used by large, medium, and small enterprises alike. The underlying principles behind the MBTI has endured for almost a century and has been proved to be valid and reliable through extensive studies and testing.
Using the MBTI in the context of team development can be highly beneficial, regardless of whether there is conflict in the team or consistent harmony between team members.
Understanding similarities and differences
Have you ever wondered why a few team members in the office seem to get fixated over factual details while others seem to speak in riddles and cannot get to the point? What about those team members who seem to forever ask for more information whenever a decision is called for but can never arrive at a decision decisively? What about the finance manager who seems to get so bogged down by all the financial details but cannot see the wood for the trees? What about the marketing manager who seems to be speaking an entirely different language but you are none the wiser on the concrete steps to take after their presentation is finished?
A lot of these issues can be found in most teams. In fact, they can be found whenever a group of people have to work together, whether it is in Australia or on the other side of the globe. They arise simply because people are involved. Unless artificial intelligence is going to take over workplaces in the near future, it is likely that these issues will persist because every human has a set of potentially different innate preferences, which are the cause for potential misunderstanding and disagreement.
Learning how to flex
Given our innate preferences, are we destined to be victims of this preferential diversity? The answer is a definite ‘no’. One of the beauties of nature is adaptability. While our hard-wired preferences may predispose us to think or act in a way that is in line with our dominant preference because that is our most natural and comfortable response, we can certainly learn to behave differently.
In the context of interpersonal relations, the first step to behaviour modification is to understand the differences in the first place. Without understanding the differences, which is akin to ‘not knowing the problem’ in the conventional problem-solving model, it may be difficult to neutralise the impact of those differences. But once you become aware of those differences and understand how they affect people’s behaviour, you would be able to modify your own behaviour to appeal to other people’s preferences to get the job done. Even better, if both people are aware of each other’s preferences and differences, both parties could modify their behaviour to meet each other halfway, which makes reconciling and resolving issues much more effectively and efficiently.
In MBTI terms, this is known as ‘flexing’, which is a by-product of healthy personality development. The idea of flexing is not about changing your innate preferences; rather, it is about actively behaving in a way that may be out of your normal preferences momentarily without permanently zapping your energy or changing your identity. In reality, we all flex instinctively and regularly in many life circumstances but understanding MBTI and personality types maximises your ability to actively and consciously harness your preferences and behaviour at will, which would in turn allow you to behave appropriately and effectively in the face of any situation, whether that behaviour is in or out of preference for you.
For instance, if a team member has a strong ‘sensing’ and ‘thinking’ preference, who is obsessed with minute details, you may flex by providing additional facts and rationale to them outside of meetings to help them make decisions when the crunch time comes. For those team members who seem to be hung up on value issues, rather than relying on cold hard logic, you may flex by incorporating a ‘people impact’ discussion to generate buy-in.
In the end, if we all understand each other’s preferences and differences and are willing to flex, a lot of the day to day problems may be resolved.
Resolving potential issues due to the collective personality of the team
Just as individuals can be sorted into personality ‘types’, your team as a collective also has its own type, which comes with it certain competitive advantages as well as potential blind-spots. Understanding your team’s collective personality could improve the quality of discussions and decision-making as the team becomes more self-aware to consciously maximise its competitive advantages and remedy its blind-spots.
For example, if your team is over-represented by ‘perceiving’ people who are great at generating novel and innovative ideas but are less inclined to seeing projects through, the team could be a highly valuable resource for the organisation to deal with industry and technological disruptions and help the organisation stay competitive. However, such a team may have difficulties implementing and completing projects as it jumps from one ‘shiny thing’ to another. In which case, strategies and processes to keep track of projects and see them to fruition should be considered to address this blind-spot.
Again, having an understanding of the collective personality of your team allows you to make conscious decisions to address the strengths and weaknesses associated with its personality type, which may provide a preventative measure to deal with potential issues rather than reacting to them as they arise. To that end, we need to remind ourselves that teams are dynamic and evolutionary because it is made up of real-life people who have different preferences and behaviour facets in their personalities, which have been further complicated by environmental factors such as their culture, education, upbringing, previous experiences, etc.
The next step
It goes without saying that diversity is a strength and competitive advantage of any team but the more diverse the team, the more likely that the team members have different personality types and behavioural facets, which would invariably create complexity and even friction in the workplace. Rather than limiting diversity, it is much more positive and constructive to embrace diversity and find ways to mitigate the downsides that come with it.
For those teams who wish to harness the power of MBTI to improve their dynamics, having a MBTI workshop conducted by a MBTI Certified Practitioner may be the first step to embark on this journey. While there are plenty of resources on the internet about MBTI or other personality instruments, only MBTI Certified Practitioners are accredited to administer and interpret the official MBTI instrument (and a number of other official resources) under strict technical and ethical guidelines.
If the experiences and feedback of people who have participated in MBTI workshops around the world are anything to go by, it is likely that the return on investment of the workshop would far exceed its cost.
No person should rely on the contents of this article without first obtaining advice from a qualified professional person. This article is provided on the terms and understanding that the author and BDO (QLD) Pty Ltd are not responsible for the results of any actions taken on the basis of information in this article, nor for any error in or omission from this article. The article is provided for general information only and the author and BDO (QLD) Pty Ltd are not engaged to render professional advice or services through this article. The author and BDO (QLD) Pty Ltd expressly disclaim all and any liability and responsibility to any person in respect of anything, and of the consequences of anything, done or omitted to be done by any such person in reliance, whether wholly or partially, upon the whole or any part of the contents of this article.