In knowing how to deal with different personalities, one must first appreciate and embrace diversity. There’s definitely a meaning about why there are 8.7 billion (documented) species thriving on this planet (The New York Times, 2011). Back in my Ecology Class, I learned that the ecosystem is diverse and all creatures are interconnected. This diversity led to this innate connection to make sure survival of every species in the loop. The extinction of one species may lead to an unbalanced ecosystem which will have an adverse effects to other species and the environment.
I get back to this insight every time I get annoyed when a team member, for instance, doesn’t go with what’s agreed by many. I remind myself of this insight which motivates me to change my strategy instead of judging the person. I’d start by asking why he disagrees. His perspective may draw me to a relevant angle that I may have missed. I also keep my communication style in check by clarifying my intent. At the end of that conversation, I either learned something or won someone over.
A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF YOUR OWN PERSONALITY
Studying genetics also made me realized that a single human being is a summation of all ancestral (genetic make-up) and environmental influences. These two always compete. The dominant genes may dictate our anatomy or appearance as well as our behaviors, but the ever-present forces and pressures in our environment may even have a stronger influence over our genes, especially manifested in the way we think and behave. I did not grow up in the same environment and family my team did, neither did they all grow up in the same environment and family. The type of environment and families we were born to makes each of us unique. We are destined to be different, maybe similar but not the same and this is good. My weakness is my teammates’ strengths and vice versa. Together, we make a stronger team than being apart.
In dealing with our team members or fellow teammates, self-awareness is key. We need to know what our unfavorable tendencies are and must have concrete ways to change or control them. We also need to work around our emotional triggers. We must know what we are good at and then capitalize on them. Learn to use methodologies and tools available. We can’t manage our team’s personality differences well if we can’t manage our own emotions and quirks.
INSIDE THE BRAINS OF INTROVERTS AND EXTROVERTS
When you praise an introvert of his great work, dopamine (happy hormone) in the brain is fired up! This can be an exciting feeling but for introverts this can be too overwhelming. This is why they usually dismiss it or redirect it. On the other hand, extroverts are powered up by dopamine surge. If they were praised, they will talk more about what they’ve done or may give you a happy dance or may throw a party!
Introverts respond well to acetylcholine over dopamine. Acetylcholine is another kind of happy hormone that is triggered by looking in. Best feeling is when they are in a calm environment. It motivates them to reflect and focus. This is why introverts prefer to be alone and would love to spend time creating something. They’d be interested on projects that will allow them to reflect and create. Micromanaging certainly does not motivate your introverts so just schedule meet-ups for checks in.
While in a team meeting or coaching, your introverts don’t want to be pushed to talk. Allow quiet time or thinking time. You may ask questions that will allow your introvert to express what he’s thinking or feeling or what his vision is. Do not rush the conversation and don’t speak with so much enthusiasm. Calm your tone and talk calmly. It also helps if you find a room by yourselves to have that conversation.
On the other hand, you will bore your extroverted teammates with your calm, cold tone. You have to be snappy and tone must be upbeat if you want them to hear you out. Stop yourself from talking a lot. Allow them to talk more. Allow them to lead the conversation. Incorporate games and exercises in your team meetings and your extroverts would love to co-facilitate with you so give them the chance. With proper guidance, they can be a star!
VALUE THE PESSIMISTS IN YOUR TEAM
Pessimists are wired to challenge anyone or any ideas presented to them. It is an instantaneous reaction. They are also usually motivated to think ahead foreseeing risks and fears. This is why they usually don’t go with your thoughts at the onset. For most of us, the pessimists are the difficult people in our team. However, pessimists see angles or perspectives that most of us miss. We should give them an environment where they can freely express themselves, their thoughts, free of prejudices. If you spend time to know what motivates them and help them achieve their motivators, they’ll be your team’s champs. Hear them out and do not shoot down their ideas. If you couldn’t get them to agree, ask leading questions that will lead them to realize what you are trying to influence them on. You may also want to try to immerse them into roles or lead projects that will offer them a better understanding of something that they disagree with. They will soon learn to respect other people’s ideas and not necessarily avoid prejudices but clarify them.
RESPECT AS A CORE VALUE
Include ‘respect’ in your team’s general house rules. Respect teaches us to listen more, know each other more and learn more from one another. Learning to respect diversity and capitalize on it is the best strategy to win and overcome challenges.