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Over the years I’ve been part of many teams, both as a developer and leader, some teams worked well, others not so. There can be many reasons why teams struggle, some of these are clearly visible while others are more difficult to identify. Covering all the technical skills in the team goes without saying, but there is another important ingredient to take into consideration – the personality mix! The wrong mix can cause problems.

When I think back to the teams that worked well the first thing that jumps out is the people I worked with, they made it memorable, and enjoyable! Even when the pressure was on the camaraderie in the team helped us work for each other. The teams I’ve been in that lacked that togetherness struggled because there were clashes and disruptions amongst individuals at a time when we need to be united. Different personalities can affect teams in numerous ways, I’ve come to believe that we should never underestimate the influence they have!

When we have open headcount the technical skills needed are usually well understood, but do you know what type of personality you’re looking for? Do you even care? It was not something I thought too much about for the recruitment process. Having people to good attitudes is always something I look for, a good sense of humour is a bonus, but I didn’t go any deeper than that. Reading HBR’s blog gives support for taking personalities seriously, even early in the recruitment process – Great Teams Are About Personalities, Not Just Skills.

a large meta-analysis showed that team members’ personalities influence cooperation, shared cognition, information sharing, and overall team performance

It seems obvious, yet personality types often overlooked while recruiting. It’s only when we see a team struggling that we see the conflict in personalities and then it’s often too late! I believe for a team to bond there needs to be a good mix of personalities, having all the same type of people doesn’t work well. People thrive at different stages of the project, some under pressure, others when they have the freedom/time to think. This variety can work throughout the whole project, the ones who work well under pressure can support those who don’t, the ones more attuned to the feelings of others can help when tensions rise, etc. The list goes on, but seeing how the different personality types each have their own strengths works in building strong teams.

Leadership plays an important part too, creating an environment where people have the freedom to express their personality is crucial. It comes back to having awareness of the various personalities and being able to identify them in people, this is a challenge, which is why being close to the team and having regular one-on-ones is part of the leader’s role! With an understanding of the people in your teams, you will then be more prepared for the recruitment process where personality needs can be put alongside skills.

A more effective approach (like the mission to Mars example) focuses as much on people’s personalities as on their skills

To focus on personalities you need to agree on what you have and what you need, the linked article has Results-oriented, Relationship-focused, Process and rule followers, Innovative and disruptive thinkers, and Pragmatic. These types probably suit most teams but check they do with yours.

Then comes the next challenge of identifying the personality type of the candidates you interview! This can be tricky to get right and takes planning to include the appropriate questions. Most of these will be behavioural based to gauge how they react in various situations. There are plenty of example questions to use, a few are on these sites:

These questions are never foolproof, but asking the right questions should give you some indicatoion of the type of person you’re interviewing.

It’s not easy identifying and looking for personality types, it can take a lot of effort! Investing time into this, especially with the recruitment process will pay off on the long run because as the research shows…

The most successful teams get this mix of personalities right.

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