Personality (dis)order

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on August 18, 2009 in: Project Management, Tools & Resources

When you get a bunch of people in a room, there’s the potential that you might have conflict. When those people try to work on a project together, the likelihood of conflict increases dramatically. That’s because people have different styles of…

  • Work
  • Communication
  • Conflict resolution

… and they measure collaboration and success differently. (Yes, I’m sure you’ve thought of several other items to this list, too; it’s not exhaustive).

As a project manager who gets called in to help a project start (and finish!!!), it’s nice to be able to go into a room and figure people out quickly so you know how they work, how they communicate, how they work through conflict, how they collaborate, and how they measure success. When you know the people in a project, you can more effectively assign tasks, mitigate negative conflict (yes, some positive conflict is good), and help the project be more likely to succeed in everyone’s eyes.

There are several tools to help you figure out the team that you’re working with. These tools are often lumped together under the inaccurate name of “personality analysis tools” (or something similar) and people get assigned with colors or words or animals. DISC is a popular one.

My favorite tool to understand people is the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). While no personality indicator tool will ever be accurate, you only need something that can give you a good sense of the situation, and I find that MBTI can do that.

Myers Briggs ranks people based on four sets of alternatives, suggesting that people are some combination of:

  • Either Introverts or Extroverts
  • Either “iNtuitives” or Sensors
  • Either Thinkers or Feelers
  • Either Judgers or Perceivers

And so you get people who describe themselves as ENTP (an extrovert, intuitive, thinker, and perceiver) or ISFJ (an introvert, sensor, feeler, and judge). In total there are 16 possible combinations which gives people just enough variety to uniquely describe who they are but gives a project manager like myself a manageable enough sorting system.

Now, you need to know how I use it: I’m not ruthlessly devoted to MBTI to the exclusion of common sense (but I have met people who are). Instead, I use it to decide things like:
• Are there groups of people who are more introverted? I’ll give them on-their-own tasks.
• Are there groups of people who are more extroverted? I’ll give them group tasks.
• Are there thinkers? Are there intuitives? I’ll make sure they’re involved in the evaluation of a project’s steps.
• Are there feelers? I’ll make sure that someone’s critical comments weren’t harmful to them.

So you can see that I don’t slot people in and that’s that; instead I use MBTI as a way to keep different working and personality styles at the top of my mind so that I can shape a project (and the related interaction) around how people work best, and so that I can reduce any friction that could arise because of personalities.

You might not want to use MBTI, but if they work with you, you should consider finding something to use to help you in a similar way.

Happy Blogging!

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