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Team Working - Personality Profiling Can Help

Aug 17, 2007
At work, and in many out-of-work scenarios, most people need to work as part of a team at some time or another. Sometimes you may wonder just what makes another team-member tick. They probably wonder just the same about you! With personality profiling you can discover how to ensure that Together Everyone Achieves More. Before looking into the relevance of profiling in teams, first a little background.


People are different - but they are predictably different. A personality profile helps predict how someone will react in a given situation, helping you understand what motivates them - and what they're trying to avoid. And they can understand you too. In his book "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People", Dr Stephen Covey said: "Seek first to understand, then to be understood."

In 1926 Dr William Marston, an expert in behavioural understanding and the inventor of the polygraph (lie-detector), devised a system to understand people's personality styles. In his book "The Emotions of Normal People" he grouped people according to their active or passive tendencies, dependent upon their view of the environment. The main styles identified are:

D - Drive - "My Way" (3% of the population)
I - Influence - "The Fun Way" (12% of the population)
C - Compliance - "The Right Way" (16% of the population)
S - Steadiness - "The Safe Way" (69% of the population)

Of course there aren't just four styles, as everyone exhibits different levels of each of the four, resulting in an almost infinite number of combinations of the main styles. In fact a profile that showed someone as all one style would be extremely suspect. Your style, for instance, may be a combination of 'High D', 'Medium I', 'Fairly C' and 'Low S'. No style is inherently 'Good' or 'Bad', all have positive features.

The aim of profiling is to identify and play to your strengths, while utilising the self-awareness of possible weaknesses. If you choose to share this knowledge with others in the team, and they're willing for you to study their profiles, real synergy can be achieved.

For instance, in one company most of the employees were sales people - highly motivated and very personable. Everyone worked and got on well together - except that the others found Joe, the warehouseman, slow and difficult to relate to. Personality profiling showed that the salespeople were High D/I people, whereas Joe was High C/S. But armed with this knowledge the profiler asked the salespeople how often their orders were delivered incorrectly. The answer was 'Almost never' - at which point Joe's slow, careful approach could be seen as a virtue and a real asset to the organisation.

Despite taking just seven minutes to complete, the personality profile derived from the combination of the different levels of each style gives an amazingly accurate profile of the subject in:
How they think of themselves;
How others see them;
How they act under stress;
Their communication preference;
Greatest fears;
Greatest motivators.

What is your boss's profile? If you are the boss, what are the profiles of your subordinates? Reading their reports, with their permission, could give you a new insight into their character traits and help staff retention. Sickness at work and replacing unhappy or underperforming staff has a negative impact on profitability. Personality profiling is a low cost way to surround yourself with a synergistic group of people, performing at their best.

Knowing your own preferred style, and that of others in the team, can go a long way towards creating an environment in which Dr Covey's recommendation to "Think Win/Win" can flourish.

1. Let's get it right from the beginning. Recruiting staff is expensive in time and money. Personality profiling is a cost-effective way to maximise the chances of finding the right person first time. Sample interview questions are included.

2. When someone is unsure of themselves in a new environment their pattern will change in a particular way, so the profile can be used to check how someone is settling into a new role, and whether they need further support.

3. We saw, in the case of Joe, how each team-member can be valued for their specific qualities. Knowledge of individuals' preferred style means that responsibilities can be shared in a way that best utilises talents, instead of putting round pegs into square holes.

4. When you understand a team-mate's greatest fears, this may explain many things that remain unsaid. For instance a High C hates conflict, so their High D co-worker would be better suited to complaining about poor service from a supplier. The High D who enjoys a full and frank exchange of views, may finally realise why a High C subordinate repeatedly puts off making that phone call of complaint.

5. You will understand how to motivate team members, how they set goals for themselves and how best to support the team by making sure that all styles are represented within it. A High C team member will enjoy, and be good at, preparing detailed action plans that the High I 'big picture' goal-setter may neglect.

6. Team members will learn possible growth areas, particularly in communications. A High I may get a better response from others if they talk less and listen more. A High S can realise they need to be more open to change. A High D and a High C may both come to appreciate the benefits of developing personal relationships, although these two will initially exhibit very different styles.

7. Graphs in the personality profile can identify normal individuals going through a tough time - for instance stress at work or home that could be having a detrimental effect on the individual's health or work performance. Personality profiles do not identify mental health problems, nor criminal tendencies.

8. The graphs can identify those working beyond their limits or those under-performing, possibly because they're too wary of making a move for fear of failure. This could identify the need for further training or support. Remember, it's often less costly to give further training to an existing staff member than to recruit afresh - with still no guarantee of having found the correct person.

9. Different styles communicate very differently. For example a high S working with a high D may withdraw in the face of the D's direct style, thus slowing down results. When all team members are aware of every-one's styles they can seek to modify how they communicate and at least allow for the other's point of view, even though they are unlikely adopt it themselves. If everyone were willing, a chart could be displayed prominently to remind the team that, for instance, the steady High S personality may be intimidated by the High D's confrontational approach, despite no offence being intended.

10. Personality profiling terminology provides a less-confrontational language for pointing out a colleague's unhelpful behaviour. For instance, "You need to up your C today" is likely to be better received than "Don't you ever stop and think before you act?"

When working in a team environment, a group booklet showing all possible style combinations is normally made available to each team member. Writing every team member's names on the appropriate page will give others a detailed understanding of their co-workers. The booklet also shows how each style interacts with all the others, highlighting ways to improve interaction.

Obviously this knowledge could be used exploitatively, but that is counter-productive to building good teams and has no place in the ethical use of personality profiling. No worker should be compelled to reveal their information to the others, but if those who are willing to participate allow an objector to see their own reports, it's often the case that objections melt away.

Have you guessed what your style is? I guessed mine, before completing the questionnaire, and I was completely wrong. However, I have to confess that, as I read the report, I could see that I was deceiving myself, and in fact the analysis knew me better than I did. I wanted badly to be a High D - direct, dominant and demanding, instead I was a High C - compliant, contemplative and careful.

At first I was disappointed, but the point of personality profiling is to highlight strengths. Don't be fooled into think that C and S styles are weak - they're not. They are 'Completers' - i.e. those with a reputation for pressing on and getting things done.

The more of my own report I read, the more I realised that characteristics I was lukewarm about in myself are actually strengths I can use to move forward in a way that won't make me feel threatened and I now know (and recognise from the past) the pitfalls I need to avoid.
About the Author
Joy Healey is a qualified life-coach. For a free sample and an eBook giving more information on the benefits and applications of personality profiles visit http://www.life-coaching-london.co.uk/personality.html.
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