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How Do 'Personalities' Impact the Way We Work?

by Peter Doyle, on March 12, 2020

Agile Team Building - Because You've Got Personality

In my prior blog post Agile Collaboration: Becoming a Team Player, we discussed strategies for building a cohesive Agile team. In passing, I mentioned the role that personality plays in that process.

With the assistance of a fellow coworker and Agile Scrum Master, Dan McLean, I’d like to delve more deeply into that subject. Specifically, discussing the role personality tests can play when applied to adapting teams to varying personality types.

Together, Dan and I will analyze the Predictive Index (hereafter referred to as the PI). The Predictive index is one of the many tools company’s have at their disposal to coach their employees and improve the overall performance of the team itself.

The Predictive Index

A little background on the PI is helpful here. There are four Primary Factors measured in this test: Factor A (Dominance), Factor B (Extraversion), Factor C (Patience), and Factor D (Formality). According to the guide, “Each of the four factors is a drive to behave in a particular way, and each is different from the others. Every individual has all four Factors in his or her total pattern of behavior.”

The guide continues with the following definitions of each of the four Factors:

  • Dominance: The drive to exert one’s influence on people or events, with Collaborative and Independent at each extreme
  • Extraversion: The drive for social interaction with other people, with Reserved and Sociable at each extreme
  • Patience: The drive for consistency and stability, with Driving and Steady at each extreme
  • Formality: The drive to conform to rules and structure, with Flexible and Precise at each extreme

Three behavioral patterns emerge:

  • Self: Basic motivations and needs
  • Self-Concept: How you think you need to adapt in response to the current environment
  • Synthesis: Combination of Self and Self-Concept

We evaluated two hypothetical team members’ PI results (whom we’ll refer to as Fabio and Donald). Let's discuss how to best manage them based on their strengths and weakness as discovered in their PI results. (Caveat here: These are just discoveries from the PI and are not dispositive that Fabio and Donald cannot or will not be successful in different situations.)

Dominance

Fabio’s strengths show that he has a high aptitude for teamwork, collaboration, and accepting things that impact the team. His weaknesses show that he may shy away from tough conversations. He may be too cautious and have difficulty making tough decisions.

Donald’s strengths show that he is a natural leader who drives change and seeks to challenge the status quo, along with being assertive and willing to take charge. His manager should take caution in that he may be seen as overly aggressive by his direct reports and intimidate rather than motivate. He also has a focus on directives, may appear tough-minded, and have difficulty delegating authority.

Extraversion

Fabio’s strengths show that he is a people-oriented thoughtful delegator who is motivated to build team cohesion and collaboration. His weaknesses show that he may be overly talkative and prioritize being liked over results. He may be too optimistic and avoid conflicts, in order to keep interactions positive.

Donald’s strengths show that he has a motivating and stimulating leadership style and is people-oriented and sociable. His manager should be cautioned, however, by his overly optimistic attitude that may make him too trusting of low-performers, one who prefers to be liked or become the focus of attention.

Patience

Fabio’s strengths suggest that he is a calm and thoughtful listener that gives the team time to process and builds solid group processes. His weaknesses suggest that he may be uncomfortable with change and over analyze situations. Fabio may struggle under pressure and be slow to adopt new ideas.

Donald’s strengths suggest someone who leans in the direction of stability, generally having a calm and stable leadership style, a thoughtful listener who builds solid group processes and also allows the team to process.

Formality

Fabio’s strengths show that he is flexible and able to delegate details easily, adept at changing organizational needs and deals well with ambiguous management situations. His weaknesses suggest he may be too casual and may not provide enough structure and may not provide enough attention to detail.

Donald’s strengths lean heavily in the direction of flexibility in most management situations to direct reports, one who is able to delegate details easily and adept at changing organizational needs and also deals well with ambiguous management situations. One should caution that he may not provide as much attention to detail as direct reports need and enough structure and direction for the team. He also may appear too casual or not serious enough.

Coaching guidance for each team member

Fabio: He should be surrounded with a team that works together, have him be the leader of internal stand ups, allow him to listen to his team members and help them work through processes that are not time sensitive. Allow him to delegate tasks from a higher level to his team. I believe this would help him to excel among his team members and would provide the greatest amount of happiness for him. I would also try to incorporate some of Fabio's weaknesses in bits and pieces to help him to grow as an employee and gain comfortability.

Donald: He would benefit from having processes in place to counteract his lack of attention to detail. It would also be good to surround him with (at least) some team members who would not always passively accept his direction but would be more willing to push back when called for. His sunny disposition might make him less inclined to deal with bad news, so having someone clear-eyed to provide a sober picture of where things are at would also be of help.

Winning, as a Team

In team sports such as baseball, success is certainly heavily reliant upon hard statistics such as batting average, ERA, and slugging percentage. Every coach will build a team from the ground up starting from these stats. The more intangible elements of success are the ones that produce team cohesion, the magic that makes a World Series Championship team. That magic is largely dependent upon the players’ personalities and ability to create a cohesive unit focused on the prize. Similarly, the PI offers a tool to help create a cohesive unit that wins “championships” for your Agile team.

Topics:Agile