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How to Manage 9 Different Personalities at Work

Take a moment to think about your team. Chances are your team consists of a pretty diverse group of people who all have their various strengths and weaknesses.

While a diverse team has many benefits to the workplace, whenever people get together, there are bound to be different points of views that can lead to disagreements. It’s the manager’s responsibility to take care of any difficulties that arise within teams. An important way to properly handle a difficult situation is to truly understand the personalities you’re dealing with – after all there are nine different ones to consider.

Yes, nine different personalities. According to the Enneagram of Personality, a personality-profiling tool that dates back to 750 B.C, there are nine different personality types and everyone is said to fit into one of those nine. In fact, author and speaker Michael J. Goldberg believes that one’s personality type really says a lot about how that person acts at work.

In his book, “The 9 Ways of Working: How to Use the Enneagram to Discover Your Natural Strengths and Work More Effectively,” Goldberg introduces the nine personality styles of the Enneagram, which consist of:

  1. The Perfectionist gets things done right, regardless of the consequences. Famous example: Martha Stewart
  2. The Helper nurtures others’ careers and demands appreciation for it. Famous example: Mister Rogers
  3. The Producer works hard to succeed but can burn out in overwork. Famous example: Oprah Winfrey
  4. The Connoisseur explores his or her creativity and deep feelings, but may get lost in them. Famous example: Robert Downey, Jr.
  5. The Sage craves data, theories and insight but may forget the human element. Famous example: Bill Gates
  6. The Troubleshooter knows the secrets and who can be trusted but can get paranoid. Famous example: Jon Stewart
  7. The Visionary inspires with brilliant, fun, imaginative ideas but leaves closure to others. Famous example: John F. Kennedy
  8. The Top Dog exercises leadership but may end up as a vengeful bully. Famous example: Rupert Murdoch
  9. The Mediator wants everybody working as a conflict-free team but may forget his or her own goals. Famous example: Ringo Starr

Any of those personality types sound familiar or strike close to home? Now whether you “buy” into the idea of the Enneagram view, there’s no denying that one’s personality shapes how they think and how they perform at work. Once you can distinguish the various personality types of your team members; it will help you identify the most effective ways to work together.

One of the most desirable skills for a manager is emotional intelligence, which ensures that you have the perspectives and feelings of others available to you as you prepare to move your ideas forward. You develop emotional intelligence by practicing listening more and speaking less, and really trying to understand what other people are communicating. You will find that paying attention to different opinions actually increases your leadership effectiveness.

You should make a concentrated effort to read the emotional states of others.

Here are a few tips on how to do that:

  • Get to know your employees. Ask them about their backgrounds, experiences, education, and so on. Be willing to share this type of information about yourself.
  • Make a point of drawing together diverse groups when discussing issues, solving problems, and developing opportunities.
  • Evaluate how you view people who disagree with you. Do you try to understand the basis for their views? Do you ask questions respectfully? Do you work toward mutual understanding, or simply try to convince them that you are right?
  • When you make a decision, get into the habit of considering the impact it will have on the people affected by it. Sometimes you may determine that a decision has a higher cost than it is worth, in terms of its impact on people. Other times, you may make the same decision, but you will know you need to reduce its negative impact.
  • Recognize that timing is important. Your message might be the right one, but it won’t be well received if it is delivered at the wrong time. Before delivering your message ask yourself: “How will others feel if I say that?”
  • Analyze what percentage of time you spend listening as opposed to talking in interactions. You should spend more time listening than speaking. If this is a problem for you, practice listening carefully instead of thinking about how you are going to respond. Only after the person has stopped talking should you begin composing your response.

Working with an assorted team is no easy feat. But show you value the diversity of opinions and other points of view, no matter how different these are from your own, and it will earn you the respect of your direct reports. While it can be hard to find something for everyone to agree on, your efficiency as a manager could be that one thing they all have in common.

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