Does Personality Type Matter When Selecting a Project Team?

by Sandra Gauvin

Leader And The Team by Petr Kratochvil

If you think personality types don’t matter, then think again.  As a Quality professional, there’s been many times throughout my career that I had to lead a project team.

On one occasion, I can remember working with a team to create a process map, which was just one of many tasks we had to deliver. I wasn’t involved in the team selection, since that was the responsibility of the project sponsor.

At our first working meeting, I decided to create an interactive environment where everyone would get out of their seats and create the process map on kraft paper that was taped to the wall. This would give everyone the chance to actively participate and engage in discussion.

The team was so reluctant to participate.  I had to keep reminding them to move around and not just stand in one place (which was next to their chairs).  At times I was forced to poke the team to see if they were still breathing!  Needless to say, the meeting didn’t go very well.  I was disappointed at how little we got accomplished in that one hour.

Out of concern, I called in a co-worker and good friend to help facilitate the next session…he was a very seasoned project manager.  At the end of another one hour session, he got about as much information out of the team as I had…the kraft paper on the wall was pretty sparse.  His words of wisdom were ‘good luck with that team kiddo’, which didn’t exactly make me feel good.

I had already used up two weeks of the project timeline and didn’t have much to show for it. Instead of attempting a third try at building a process map, I decided to take a step back and analyze the situation to understand why the team was barely participating.  I then realized the project sponsor had selected highly qualified people that were knowledgeable on the process, but they were all introverts being led by an extreme extravert!

I had to quickly change my approach as to how to lead the team so that I could complete the project on time.  After that day, I had made it a standing rule to work with project sponsors on the importance of identifying personality types before selecting team members.  After all, too many extraverts can also slow down a project because we all want to talk.

The next project that you lead, take the time to educate the sponsor so you can be sure your team has a good balance of different personality types…have them use the results of personality tests their employees may have taken in the past (Meyers-Briggs, DISC).

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