Businesses have so many personalities that come together and make for an interesting soup in the workplace. These personalities range from ‘The Achiever’ who always pushes the team to do their best; to ‘The Know-It-All’ who thinks their ideas are far superior than the rest; to  ‘The Quiet One’ who remains reticent; to ‘The Naysayer’ who finds a problem in every silver lining. The challenge for any business owner is to understand that personalities form around inner conflicts, strengths and weaknesses and a great manager is able to identify these and harness them to get the most out of their employees, whilst minimising work-place disputes. 

Understanding each team member

Holding professional boundaries in mind, it remains important for a manager to try and understand their staff member’s backstory: Including what drives them, what worries them and what they want to achieve in their lives. If an employee is aggressive or aloof, there may be an important reason behind their backstory; perhaps they need a mentor, or don’t have a clear idea of what’s expected of them. The shy employee may be in the wrong role or may just be afraid of the limelight. Once you have insight into their behaviour, you can begin to figure out how this plays off their strengths and weaknesses and how to help them better engage with their role. 

Be wary of labels

Human beings prefer to be in control and that can mean labelling someone to feel like you understand who they are and what to expect from them. While it can be very appealing to ‘diagnose’ your staff members with labels, always keep in mind that you are only seeing one small part of their personality and it's your job to find ways to get more out of them. So if the shy employee never speaks up in meetings, have a chat a few days before and let them know you want to hear their input on the day, so they have time to prepare themselves and a response. You may both be surprised by the outcome!

Understand company roles

A staff member doesn't have to be everything to everybody. Rather they need to have strong qualities that speak directly to what their role requires. So it's important that you have a clear understanding of what each role needs in the first place and then place the correct personalities in those spaces. For example, a client-facing role requires someone who is an extrovert but also sensitive enough to read the room during negotiations. If a role is very technical, then you need to be looking for someone who loves problem solving and will lean into difficult scenarios. When you understand the role requirements you can then hire strategically and find complementary personalities.

Harness your own personality and communicate effectively

The best leaders, lead by example. So tailor your own communication to the person that you are engaging with. Collaborating with different types of people is a real art and requires soft skills to interact effectively. There are some key ways you can ensure you are communicating effectively:

1. Prioritize shared goals

This is a unifier in the team setting. Ultimately individuals need to be working towards  a common goal. While different voices matter, if you can help your team understand that everyone is working towards the same vision, you will be able to manage individual personalities and disputes in a much quicker way.

2. Don't take it personally

When conflicts occur at work, it can feel personal and hurtful. In times like these it's so important to take a step back and not take it personally. They are behaving that way because of their own personal conflicts and not because of the person you are. Sometimes, creating some space between yourself and others can go a long way in mastering the art of managing different personalities. 

3. Embrace the differences

Often different personalities mean that everyone has their own lens through which they are processing the world. This can be an incredible asset to a strategic manager. So encourage your team to air their different views, and create opportunities to problem solve, show empathy and think wider for the business as a whole.

5. Handle conflicts face on

A strong manager knows that ignoring interpersonal conflict doesn't work for long. So when a dispute occurs, bring it out into the open and confront it directly. While this may feel really uncomfortable at first, working through hard things actually strengthens teams in the long term. 

The bottom line

Within every company, personalities differ vastly which requires the manager to step up and tune in strategically to what this means for the business. Personalities are born out of inner strengths, weaknesses and conflicts and when this is understood by leadership, it can be harnessed in very strategic ways to motivate staff and manage conflict. It also requires the manager to be self aware, understand their own triggers and rise above the issues instead of getting pulled into them. This is an art but also a skill that can be worked through and strengthened, one interaction at a time.

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