Why Great Teams Are about Personalities, Not Just Skills

Everyone wants the most skilled and gifted individuals working for them. However, hiring exclusively for skill can backfire, as imagine the friction if President Trump was appointed the highly experienced Bernie Sanders as his consultant. Factors like time, communication, personality harmony, and emotional intelligence determine the final outcome. Google’s recipe for a perfect team last year said that team empathy and harmony are what produce stellar results. They however neglected to mention the effect of individual personalities, perhaps because Google only hires people with certain personalities in the first place.

In writing for Harvard Business Review, Dave Winsborough and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic show study results supporting their theory that team members’ personalities influence cooperation, shared cognition, information sharing, and overall team performance. They categorize different kinds of personality that employees may display:

  • Results-oriented: Team members who naturally organize work and take charge
  • Relationship-focused: Team members who naturally focus on relationships, are attuned to others’ feelings, and are good at building cohesion
  • Process and rule followers: Team members who pay attention to details, processes, and rules
  • Innovative and disruptive thinkers: Team members who naturally focus on innovation, anticipate problems, and recognize when the team needs to change
  • Pragmatic: Team members who are practical, hard-headed challengers of ideas and theories

Find the Right Recipe

Your cooking ingredients vary depending on the food you make. Similarly, different organizations need a different combination of talents and personalities. If you want to employ a therapist, you need to look for someone who is more relationship-focused and able to make others comfortable. However, for a financial strategy team, you may want someone with a colder head. In all cases, a team shouldn’t be made up of exactly similar individuals, as differences help emphasize people’s uniqueness and balance each other’s roles.

The ability to blend into a team of employees is crucial to the success of a company:

A useful way to think about teams with the right mix of skills and personalities is to consider the two roles every person plays in a working group: a functional role, based on their formal position and technical skill, and a psychological role, based on the kind of person they are. Too often, organizations focus merely on the functional role and hope that good team performance somehow follows. This is why even the most expensive professional sports teams often fail to perform according to the individual talents of each player: There is no psychological synergy. A more effective approach… focuses as much on people’s skills as on their personalities.

Think of it simply like a marriage: You don’t need to marry the absolute best guy out there, but you want a good one who is also caring and compatible with your person. Do the same thing for your company, as your team may “break up” if they cannot get along with each other.

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