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June 10, 2012 | HRIS | Posted by M.T. Weldon

The 6 Personalities of a Team

Every team, from a group at a meeting, to a business unit, requires certain personality roles to be present to realize the best results.  When a team lack in any of these areas meetings run off the rails, and workplaces become dysfunctional.  We’ve all been part of both more times than we wish to count.  By recognizing what is missing you can plug the hole and right the ship.

Not every team has six people, each fitting these six personalities.  Thankfully, people can play multiple roles, and leaders can adopt roles as needed to keep things rolling.  These six personalities are not new concepts.  Ken Benne and Paul Sheats first identified these personalities, among others, in their breakthrough 1948 paper “Functional Roles of Group Members”.  An effective leader will be adept a managing, and exhibiting, these personalities in their role as a team facilitator.  When building a team, these are additional items to consider in addition to the traditional knowledge, skills, and abilities.

The Cheerleader

HIP-HIP-HOORAY! YOU WILL DO GREAT! TODAY!!  The cheerleader encourages others to participate, recognizes others for their contribution, and is an evangelist for the strengths of the team.  When one member of a team is dominating the conversation the cheerleader will look to seek balance by encouraging the underrepresented; “Wally (Wallflower) didn’t you have a product like Bob (Blabbermouth) is looking for?”  Cheerleaders spur collaboration and employee engagement.  (pom-poms and hi-socks notrequired.)

The Peacemaker: (Jimmy Carter)

The peacemaker works to find way for everyone to get along, to make peace, and to find common ground.  This personality will push parties to understand the other perspectives at the table, or

where compromise will further the goals of the team.  Jimmy is all about spreading understanding and getting everyone to bury the hatchet in the interest of mutual progress.  “I understand your perspective Oliver (Opinionated), but you should try to respect Sally (Steamrolled)’s experience in the matter”.  With a good Peacemaker like Jimmy Carter, healthy exchanges of ideas do not degenerate into disagreements that will erode a team’s effectiveness.find areas

The Sergeant-at-Arms

Just as a great nation is founded in the respect for the “rule of law”, so too is the foundation of a team the “law of rules”.  The Sergeant ensures that the team respects the rules and the core values of a team.  For a leader, keeping teams honest about the acknowledged rules is vital to maintaining a cohesive team.

If a team applies rules haphazardly, they no longer hold any value in defining the field of play for a team.  The Sergeant does not always need to be an enforcer; instead, sometimes a gentle reminder about “whatwe are about” is all that is necessary. - Note: a Sergeant-at-arms, and a good leader, always respects timetables and deadlines.  Start your meetings on time; deliver on what you promise when you promised it.

The Gatekeeper

 “I am the Key holder.  Are you the Gatekeeper?” Although your team may not face the threat of a 500 foot tall Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, all teams face adversity at one time or another. The Gatekeeper is the team facilitator. They set the rules, start the process towards solutions and innovations, and generally make sure that collaboration is fully operating. The Gatekeeper has many of the elements of the other personalities in addition to the charisma needed to sustain buy in from the team. Best recognized as the one who says “Okay folks let’s get this meeting started”, when pre-meeting conversation threatens to run into the scheduled time. If you find yourself in this role just remember not to cross the streams Dr. Venkman!

The Good-Humor Man

It has been said that if we were forced to smile when making war, we would not know the other use for plowshares. When a team is functioning at a high level, tensions will rise from time to time. The Good-Humor Man will be able to place a tactical joke to relieve pressure from the pot. When the class clown grows up to be a functioning professional this is the role they take. Being able to place a bit of humor in a tense situation in just the right way to allow for the release of tension, but not to distract from the task at hand, is a true art form. When practiced well a team will be more creative, and more satisfied, than they could be otherwise.

The Contrarian

If we all agree then there is no reason for most of us.  Groupthink is an insidious cancer that destroys teams from the inside under the guise of ‘respect’.  Disagreements, dueling ideas, and matters of opinion are why we have teams.  When a team is rubber stamping a leaders ideas it is sometimes necessary to ask a member to play The Contrarian for the sake of validating ideas.  Strong leaders are at the greatest risk of instilling groupthink in their teams by the force of personality alone.  Building a team of critical thinkers and innovators takes a leader willing to embrace disagreement.

There are a thousand nuanced personality types that lie within the gaps between these roles, but overall these are the key elements of an effective team.  Next time you are in a meeting that is going nowhere look around the table and ask yourself who didn’t show up.  Often someone only needs to demonstrate one of these personalities for a moment to move a meeting into the realm of productive.  In the workplace, look to foster an environment of respect and diversity for these personalities to surface and flourish on your team.  When bringing new members aboard consider these elements along with the traditional competencies for a job.

(Reprinted with Permission from The Davenport)

M.T. started the blog, "The Davenport" because it provides a venue to share perspectives on the core business machinations behind every industry. He believes business leadership is not necessarily industry specific, but it is specifically necessary in all industries. He has managed over one-thousand employees in his career, and regardless of what their job description was, they all were made better by effective leadership. As a business leader, he knows that every business can be better through effective management. This means maximizing employee performance, identifying business efficiencies, and clearly communicating the overall goals of the organization to all stakeholders.