“By the time you’re 30 years old, you’ve probably noticed there is a relationship between your strengths and weaknesses at work,” said executive coach Delynn Copley of the Copley Group in our recent interview. “Everyone has a set of gifts and talents, and they are often directly related to how we get in our own way. The overuse of any strength can easily turn into a weakness. "
Delynn is an expert on the subject and spends her time developing leaders and executive teams. She believes that understanding your personality can help you unlock your full potential and be “a better version of yourself.”
“You can’t check your emotions at the office door,” she emphasized. “Emotions drive decision-making and interpersonal relationships. Understanding personality is a useful way to think about how this happens, one that people can grasp easily.”
Our discussion centered around nine personality types, known as the Enneagram. This framework groups personalities into three centers of intelligence: head, heart and gut. “We have many sides to our personality, but we tend to rely more on one center than the others,” Delynn explained. “And stressful ituations like team decision making can bring out the problematic tendencies of our personality.”
Here are key strengths and weaknesses to consider the next time your team makes a decision:
Going With Your Gut
Gut types tend to be instinctive. They want to be in control - they want authority and respect. “The gut types really don’t like to be told what to do,” said Copley, “which has a clear implication for team decision making.” They like to be in charge because they like to make decisions, and they’re good at it. But to put it bluntly, they’re often also control freaks.
The Reformer: The Reformer seeks the highest potential for perfection. Driven by perfection, you expect yourself and others to be their best at all times, and you are willing to put a lot of energy into making that possible. But under stress, you start nitpicking. You don’t like to decide with incomplete information, and your uncompromising quest for perfection causes damaging delays.
The Challenger: The Challenger focuses on being strong and making things happen. The good news is that you have a lot of forward momentum and are energized by vibrant debate. You are confident and decisive. But in stressful times you move so fast that you don’t get proper input from others, misinterpreting silence as agreement and running right over less forceful dissenters, only to be tripped up later.
The Peacemaker: If you are a Peacemaker, you crave control because you want to ensure that everyone is happy. You bring people together, and synthesize perspectives across the team. But when stressed, you can be so hyper-focused on harmony that you avoid conflict, glossing over important disagreements and making the wrong decision just to keep everyone happy.
Straight From The Heart
The heart types are driven by how other people perceive them. “They care about what people see in them, and what impressions their decisions will make on other people,” said Copley. The good news: this need for validation drives a quest for team achievement and a desire for team feedback. The bad news: heart types can be driven by appearances instead of results.
The Helper: The Helper is extremely tuned into the morale of an organization. You are that bright-eyed co-worker who is always making direct, warm eye contact and involving everyone. You know how to read people. This is great, except when you are a leader who needs to make a decision that will affect people negatively. Preferring to be liked, you avoid hard but necessary decisions entirely.
The Achiever: The Achiever is also focused on other team members, but you are looking for admiration. You want your team's success to reflect your success. You are extremely goal-oriented and methodical in your decision-making, and you like to keep score because you want to win. But you run into trouble when stressful decisions reflect badly on you - you hide the bad news or distance yourself from the problems.
The Individualist: The Individualist tends to be highly creative, with a deep appreciation for beauty and aesthetics. You like to work alone to design elegant solutions. You love to say, “I think there is a totally different way to look at this.” This is highly valuable for a team, but under stress you disrupt discussion with a excessive disdain for the mundane, demanding elegance over all else.
It’s All In Your Head
The head triad is driven by their focus on what is going to happen in the future. “They are navigators,” said Copley. “They want to get things moving towards a better tomorrow.” They are always playing out future scenarios in their heads and want to be ready for what’s coming one, two or ten steps ahead. But they can also ignore the here and now, becoming overly confident that their vision of the future is real.
The Investigator: Investigators play out mental scenarios and like to have a ton of data. You are the person on the team who will read not just the full report but the footnotes and references, too. You are highly analytical, objective and rational, but when stressed you get too hung up on research and data to make a decision, and have a blind spot for important emotional factors.
The Loyalist: The Loyalist thinks a lot about security and wants to know that the future will be OK. You have a lot of skepticism and you squelch this by working through scenarios extremely carefully, especially worst-case scenarios. You are a clairvoyant planner and extremely loyal, but your focus on obstacles causes your team to dismiss your worries and miss your insights.
The Enthusiast: The Enthusiast is all about finding joy in life and work. You are optimistic with a lot of forward energy. Your energy is contagious, you are bold and innovative, a change agent. You are a quick study, and see opportunity everywhere. But under stress you blow off objections and shrug off problems, believing things will work out and you'll be proven right, even when that's probably not true.
Shining Your Spotlight And Avoiding The Shadows
“The subtle biases of different personalities happen because of the limitations of our attention,” Copley summarized. “Using the metaphor of a spotlight, if our attention is pointed intensely in one direction, then it’s not pointed somewhere else.” That throws the rest of the world into shadow. The more stressed we are, the more intense the spotlight, and the deeper the shadows.
Research shows that teams make better decisions, but team decision making can be challenging. The next time your team makes a decision, keep the effects of personality in mind. Use your bright talents, avoid stumbling in the shadows, and be a better version of yourself.