It can be very obvious when looking at dating or married couples that opposites attract. We see strengths in others that we do not possess ourselves and it oftentimes brings people together. Yet it can be these very differences that cause the conflict, misunderstanding, and frustration which cause couples to break apart.
The fact that people of opposite natures do attract one another is important to consider when building teams of people in the work environment. We have probably all been on dysfunctional teams as well as fantastic teams. Why is it that some teams work great together, while the same set of people configured on different teams will struggle?
In a business setting, people often prefer to hire others and build teams of people that are like themselves. The more people think alike and behave alike, the better they seem to get along. This is not a good recipe for building teams of people because the quality of the team’s output will most likely be stymied without adequate conflict of approaches and ideas. Effective teams need a healthy dose of opposite people to stretch their thinking, but this may ultimately cause problems for the team.
There are many good, solid analytical tools available today to build a profile of work style preferences of people. As knowledge work proliferates, more varied types of knowledge workers will come in contact with one another (socially, culturally, geographically) and managing teams of people will require more than just intuition to “herd the cats.”
The granddaddy of behavior preference testing is the Myers-Briggs assessment. Some people gain energy from interacting with others, while others prefer to work alone or in small groups. Some people prefer facts over intuition. Some people are more judgmental than perceptive, etc. Another good assessment tool is the Kirton Adaption-Innovation Inventory which shows a person’s preference for adapting to systems, rules and procedures versus a preference for challenging the status quo. The Birkman Method measures productive behaviors, stress behaviors, underlying needs, motivations and organizational orientation. Another tool is the Basadur Creative Problem Solving Profile (CPSP) Inventory which measures an individual’s unique blend of preferences for four stages of what is defined as the creative process.
When using these types of profiles, it is good to use more than one to provide insight into an individual’s composition. These assessments are oriented toward work preferences and styles and are not meant to psychoanalyze your staff. Gaining this insight into each person going onto a team will help in managing the conflicts and disagreements that are sure to evolve. Selecting the best combination of tools should be undertaken with some level of professional guidance given the nature of its complexity.
Knowing these preferences is particularly helpful when looking at opposite types of people on a team. Some people are very action oriented and driven, and their opposite is more of a planner and conceptualizer. Putting these two types of people together can help create great ideas and plans and get them to market quickly. When the extremes of their personalities come into play under stress or constraint, real trouble could be on the way. Some people enjoy talking about issues and working through problems verbally, and their opposite is a person who just wants to know the rules and processes and get the job done in the most efficient way possible. The critical part of building a team is to understand what type of team is needed for a particular assignment and crafting a team knowing both the skills of the individuals and their work style preferences.
All people are innovative to some degree, all people are idea creators, all people can make things happen in a business, but they perform their work using different styles, personalities, ethics, skills, etc. When building a team it is critical to first understand what the group is expected to deliver, then take a deeper look into who is selected and how they are expected to work together. Purposefully balancing the right type of people for the job will go a long way toward making the team more effective, productive, and successful.
Roy Luebke is an innovation expert focused on discovering new, customer-driven opportunity areas to help define the future of a company. He is inspired by knowledge and learning, and applying structured tools and methods at the crossroads of strategy and innovation to achieve business growth.