Every person is an amalgamation of different identities, learning preferences, and work styles.
Taking those elements into consideration, people are pretty complex and multi-faceted individuals – and that’s before accounting for personality. While this an affords opportunity for attraction, collaboration, and learning, it can also pose challenges.
Regardless of the environment, there exists the possibility of cognitive, interpersonal, and cooperative (including supervisory) issues when we fail to recognize or navigate these differences.
Complications can arise in a number of ways. Without considering learning style, facilitated communication of information can be ineffective in reaching or being understood by the intended audience. Different work styles can create anxiety or confusion around expectations and timing for a collaborative project if one person likes to work ahead of deadlines and another utilizes every minute until the deadline to complete a task.
Failure to account for identities and perspectives can lead to, at best, missed opportunities for engagement or effectiveness and, at worst, instances of bias, exclusion, and inequity.
While it may seem daunting to overcome all these possible issues, there are steps we can take to minimize, avoid, or prepare for them. To start, you can learn more about how people operate.
Dr. Helen Fisher is a scientist, author, speaker, and creator of the world’s most used personality assessment since 2006. She created the Fisher Temperament Inventory, which recognizes four personality types:
- Dopamine (curious, energetic, explorer; creative intelligence)
- Serotonin (cautious, social norm conforming, builder; logistical intelligence)
- Testosterone (analytical, tough-minded, director; technical intelligence)
- Estrogen (pro-social, empathetic, negotiator; diplomatic intelligence)
Each has their own skill sets (with more detail than I mention here), but Dr. Fisher reiterates we must think about the diversity of mind and skills as much as we do perspective and demographics when building teams or creating collaborative projects.
I was able to complete an abbreviated version of Dr. Fisher’s NeuroColor Individual Personality Report. Taking each of those types on a scale of 0-100%, the results revealed that I scored 81% testosterone, 71% serotonin, 49% dopamine, and 42% estrogen. I also scored introverted (recharging by being alone/having time to reflect) as opposed to extroverted and reserved (slower to reveal emotion or opinions, self-contained and composed) as opposed to outgoing.
This latter point is Dr. Fisher’s expansion on traditionally thinking of introversion and extroversion; it’s not just about how you get your energy, but also how you carry yourself and act.
I share my personal scoring information to demonstrate I am inclined towards a particular way of operating and thinking.
In my assessment role, I’m often trying to lead by influence as opposed to authority, which makes relationships important to my success. I’ve found that relationships need more than just work or task-oriented discussion to be strengthened and solidified.
While chit-chat and casual conversation come easy for others, it doesn’t for me. Left to my own devices, I default to talking about work-related items with colleagues in meetings or hallway interactions.
I know not everyone is wired to operate this way.
As such, I work to treat others how they want to be treated instead of how I would want to be treated (i.e., the platinum rule).
With my supervisees, I always dedicate the beginning of our meetings to them, inviting conversation about their lives, needs, and issues or joys they may want to share (personal or professional).
Even if they do operate like me, I still encourage some non-task discussion to share about interests, innovations, or other topics to encourage reflection and thinking beyond specific projects. I ultimately try to humanize situations to open lines of communication, establish trust, and demonstrate collegiality and support extends beyond a given project.
You may not operate like me and that’s not my point.
I illustrate my situation to show how one should think beyond their personality type and work style to engage with others. To be the most effective and supportive we can be for the students we serve, we owe it to them to include diverse perspectives, voices, and skill sets. We should find ways to support and complement one another so that we can be a truly complete and comprehensive team.
Tips for Taking Action
Understand how you operate and interact
Are there areas you’re not as self-aware or objective in your self-reporting of skills? Can you identify ways with which you interact differently with various individuals? Why is that? What do you gain by doing so? What might you lose from this variance?
Self-awareness is key here. Sanford’s theory of readiness, challenge and support is predicated on self-awareness and self-knowledge making you ready to balance challenge and support for optimal success. Talk to people in your life who would give you honest feedback about how they perceive how you operate and observations of your skills. The more you know yourself, the better chances you have for helping yourself and others.
Consider your circle
Speaking of others, how do they operate? Are there ways you could better collaborate or interact together? What changes might you make to your approach to meetings, conversation, or emails with colleagues to further shared goals or strengthen relationships?
The people you regularly interact with are important. They are part of the environment which can impact your mood, behavior, and success. Managers can play a critical role in encouraging self-awareness and reflection in supervisees who could stand to grow in those areas. Create space for reflection (for them and for you) and then engage with them to share or at least offer your observations for their consideration.
Look toward change
Given your reflections, what might you be able to change about your knowledge, behavior, or actions with others? Thinking about the people you interact with, what might you share with them to encourage enhanced future interactions? What small steps can you take that fit best for you (e.g., making small talk, focusing on non-tasks in meetings, organizing meetings or projects a certain way)?
Put your knowledge and position to work.
Use what you know about yourself to adjust the way you interact with others. As a supervisor, share your observations and encourage like work in your direct reports. You might even make time to talk collaboratively as a team to share personal reflections and strategize what changes might be best.
After all, if everyone is thinking of making changes to accommodate others, roles might reverse or people might swing too far in another direction so as to miss improvement or enhancing effectiveness.
While there are many ways to go about it, it’s important we take time to recognize the humanity in one another. Make the time for it, regardless of deadlines, workload, or how other areas may operate.
The unique differences afford us opportunities to create powerful complementary teams.
Expand your comfort zone and perspective by engaging with folks who operate differently from you. You might be surprised to find that doing so can improve your skills or work in the process.
How do personalities inform your work? Let us know through Twitter at HelloPresence.