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Today's Challenge: Leading People Who are Different

Can you think of a challenging situation you faced as a leader and later you realized it was a blessing rather than a curse? Today’s question may fall into that category. “How do you lead a team with vastly different personalities?”

I received this question after a recent speaking engagement. I’m not sure what the person thought I might say, but I told him congratulations! Teams perform at their highest level when they are comprised of people who are different. Teams who lack diversity are severely handicapped.
Diversity in a team setting comes in many forms – here are a few of them… Race, age, gender, ethnicity, education, passions, talents, skills, experiences, and yes, even personality differences add to the richness and power of a team.
To address today’s question specifically… I have three suggestions regarding different personalities:
Acknowledge the tension – For some reason, to name something makes it more approachable. If you’re introverted and people on your team don’t seem to understand that, talk about it! If you’re frustrated because some members of your team always want to talk about the details and all you want to discuss is the big picture, talk about it. Don’t pretend people are the same and don’t sweep issues under the rug.
Learn about people’s differences – Do you really understand different personality types? Do you have a deep, working knowledge of the differences represented on your team? A thorough review of each member’s personality profile could be an outstanding team building activity. If you’ve been confused or frustrated by the actions of others in the past, this activity may answer a lot of questions.
Leverage the differences – Just like a good sports team assigns positions based on specific skills, you can increase your effectiveness if you get the right people doing the right work. Extroverts, introverts, people who are more concrete and those who are more abstract in their thinking; those who are more detail-oriented and those who are not – there’s a place for everyone. As leaders, one of our roles is to help people find the right place to contribute. If we’re successful, the individual and the team both win.
All of this may sound like a lot of work; it is. Building a high performance team is hard. But, the right team composition can accelerate the journey. Diversity, including personality, is a gift. The ultimate strength of your team hangs in the balance. If you have a team of diverse individuals, be thankful, if you don’t, you need to start recruiting.[GLS_Shield]

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7 years ago

Great reminder, as so often we think surrounding ourselves with people just like us will make things better or easier, and it might seem that way, but its boring. I’ve struggled to see the differences as a good thing, to acknowledge and accept the different perspectives, but have grown some in this journey. Often I’m surprised and thankful when my horizon is expanded because of someone sees a situation from a different angle than I do, and I learn.
Mark, if you would be so kind… could you share any thoughts on what to do if you have a leader who isn’t finding a way for you to contribute? Sometimes I feel limited or like I personally have more value to add, yet those who are suppose to lead me are wasting my talent in my opinion.


7 years ago

Thanks for your comments! Regarding your question, I’ll share my thoughts in a Today’s Challenge post in the next couple of weeks. After it goes live, I’d love your reaction. Thanks for the question! Mark

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7 years ago

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