It’s only human to want others to see our good side especially when we want to belong to their group. Unfortunately the flip side of that attractive quality (our “bad” side) is what most sticks in others’ minds – once they see it.
Worse yet, hot buttons we evoke in others are often blind spots to us.
”Michael, if you can’t pass, you can’t play.” ~ Coach Dean Smith to Michael Jordan in his freshman year at UNC
In an increasingly connected world more work gets done in groups. More teams will be self-organized, initiated by someone who wants to seize an opportunity – with the right teammates. If you want to be a sought-after team player it’s worth recognizing both sides of your behavior when in groups.
Experienced team builder and author of Nice Teams Finish Last, Brian Cole Miller describes nine personality types – and how they can strengthen or weaken a team.
Which one(s) best describes you?
The Peacemaker: Focuses on team harmony and unity
“How can things run smoothly? How can we come together on this?” She makes teammates feel understood, calm and accepted. Yet, focused on others, she may lose her perspective and be indecisive or flip-flop.
He is intense, confident, action oriented – and proud of being candid. He may hold back and/or hold a grudge if his behavior is not appreciated.
The Perfectionist: Concerned with the pursuit of excellence
She works hard, creates structure and maintains high standards for herself and the group. She may slow the group’s ability to move forward and be critical of others who do not live up to her high standards.
The Energizer: Primarily concerned with innovation and enjoyment
She looks for the biggest possibilities and can lighten the mood when the going gets tough. She tends to see options through a rosy lens. She may over-promise and under-deliver. She thinks quickly yet she may not always follow through.
The Guardian: Focused on trust and security
He is responsible, hardworking, loyal, a good listener and supportive and protective of teammates. Yet he can be plagued with uncertainty and doubt, overly pre-occupied with the potential downsides of decisions and persistently asking questions to support the group yet, in fact, be irritating them and holding them back from taking action.
The Observer: Wants information to understand and be objective
She is open-minded, unbiased and thinks more information is often the answer because she is analytical so she often protects the group from hasty decisions. In so doing she looks detached and may make the others not feel understood or appreciated. In fact, they make think she believes she is smarter than them.
The Individualist: Longs for uniqueness and self-expression
Because he is deeply introspective he can imagine options that may not occur to others. He is an apt synthesizer of others’ ideas and apparently unrelated facts. He asks a lot of “how” questions. Since he values authenticity he may inadvertently insult others in the name of honesty. He’s inclination towards complexity may distract the group’s focus on the core goals and thus make them impatient with him.
The Achiever: Focuses on productivity and results
She is hardworking and competent, doing more than her fair share. She values productivity and seeks shortcuts because she prefers action over-extended analysis so she can keep team momentum going. Her instinct towards speed may make others feel rushed and may lead to poor group decisions.
The Helper: All about teammates and their needs
He is among the first to sense discord and seek to resolve it and thus can be a balm on the team. He values camaraderie so he’s more likely to remind others of their value to the team, thus keeping them high-performing and happy. Yet because he does not place a high value on facts or getting things done his teammates may resent him for not being more task-oriented and doing his fair share of work.
On page 56 of his book Miller suggests ways•• each kind of personality can both play to their strengths and turn their weaknesses into assets for the team.
“Teams that try to avoid conflict, end up under-performing. There’s a sweet spot between no conflict and too much conflict, where we are maximally effective.” ~ Brian Cole Miller
Miller offers four principles for “bold” (rather than lower-performing “nice”) team behavior:
1. Assume innocence
2. Build a Bridge
3. Speak your truth
4/. Invite dialogue
In working together some individuals focus more on the task and others on the relationship. As an odd combination of Achiever and Individualist I most enjoy participating on teams that are bonded by a strongly-felt common goal. That means I believe that performing well on towards the top group goal creates strong relationships.
The focus is less on personalities and more on the opportunity we picture together. Our mutual benefit. That’s our context.
Recognizing That We Can Be Stronger Together
When we recognize our capacity to do something better together that we could not accomplish on our own (context) we are highly motivated to get in sync (“us”-creating) to make it happen rather than on how a teammate (I-centered) is not acting right at the moment. Opportunity trumps dysfunction as the team’s focus.
If people are clear and committed to the same top goal, that sweet spot, then they are more likely to like each other, experience early wins and set in motion a spiral up of “us” behavior that can be mutually-reinforcing.
If the team’s positive experience together continues long enough they are more likely to be candid and able to openly disagree – because they want the most valuable way for “us” to make progress. The context is less about how you are upsetting me at any given time and more about the best way each of us can support the process moving forward towards our goal.
The icing on the cake of this kind of collaboration is that it is usually not the first successful work you do together that is greatest but subsequent ones on projects you probably couldn’t have imagined before you had that first satisfying experience together.