If you live in the world of technology, you understand that to be effective, we must become masters at getting work done through other people. When it comes to technology, there is no one individual who can own all of the corporate intellectual capital. And so, we rely on our ability to put together a productive technology project team so that we can get the right work completed through the right team members. While there are numerous schools of thought when it comes to selecting the right team members, one angle that is often overlooked is the mix of personality types that comprise the project team. While we would all like to build a team of people most like ourselves, it may be that a mix of personality types will result in a more effective team. There are many theories regarding personality types, but the reality is that we are a combination of multiple personality traits that, while sometimes innate, often they are the result of our perspective. Variables such as where we grew up, the attitudes and experiences of those around us, and our personal experiences mean that seldom are any two of us exactly alike.
My favorite personality type breakdown is that of driver, analytical, expressive, and amiable. While I would love to credit the individual or company who first documented this theory, after several attempts to track down that information, there seem to be multiple organizations and individuals who use this breakdown but dance around the idea of an actual owner. So, let’s treat it as open source. And if there is somebody out there who has evidence of ownership, please do let me know so that I can give proper credit where credit is due.
Using this breakdown, what personality types do we want, or need, on our technology project teams to promote success, and which should we avoid?
Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone on our technology project teams could see things the same way we do? If only the team could understand the importance of completing the project deliverables on time and preferably under budget. Like most project managers, I am a driver-type personality. In my mind, I get things done on time within the budget allocated to the project and I put a quick stop to those nasty scope-creep requirements that try to sneak on to every project. This, however, is often not the way that I am seen by my colleagues.
Determined and decisive, driver personality types are often described as scary and mean. We will respond to email and text messages quickly, and we simply do not understand the need for long, drawn-out responses. We will compose responses that summarize everything into four short bullets rather than sending out a dissertation. If we receive a dissertation trying to disguise itself as an email, we will quickly scan it and pull out the key messages or common themes as this is the only way we can absorb the context of the message. We take pride in summarizing these long messages and sending them back to the sender for confirmation of our understanding. The sender is seldom impressed that we find it necessary to rewrite their message. Always driven to achieve positive results, drivers make great criminals. They are also the perfect choice to lead a project team.
Irritating because of the time it takes them to satisfy their attention to detail, all technology projects absolutely must have an analytical personality type on the team. While a driver-type project manager will get you to the finish line, it is the analytical personalities on the team who will ensure that there is attention to detail. Left to the devices of a driver, there will be gaps in the detail that will cause pain for years to come. And so, while I love analytical personalities because I know how explicitly they are needed, they have also saved my ass on pretty much every project.
There are two key points to remember when it comes to project work. Never have a driver-type personality on an important technology project without an analytical personality type at their side. The analytical team members will ensure that every detail has been considered. The opposite also holds true. Never have an analytical personality type on the team without a driver personality close by. Analytical people will never feel that they have done enough research, and your project schedule will continually be extended. A driver personality is needed to keep the schedule on track. You’ve been warned!
One never has to guess if someone is an expressive personality type. These characters are easy to spot because they talk all the time. They will also take over every meeting and immediately rearrange the agenda to better suit their needs. But here’s the thing. If you have an expressive personality type with a high level of subject matter expertise, they will work extremely well with the stakeholders and, therefore, make a great business liaison. Their salesman-type approach makes them a great champion for the project, and people tend to like their flamboyant nature. They will also be happy to put up their hand to explain complex details. While they can be among the most challenging of the team members to manage due to their preference to rely on themselves, they are driven to succeed and will love taking credit for a job well done.
Very introspective, amiable personality types will often sit at the back of the room. This isn’t because they want to be the heckler. Although if they were, they would be the most polite heckler ever. This is because they want to ensure that everyone else is comfortable before they select their chair. They pay close attention to the personal details of the project team members and often acknowledge birthdays and anniversaries. Amiable personality types are wonderful team members because they remind us of the things that are truly important. Another advantage is that amiable personality types have the ability to work well with the more challenging stakeholders. They empathize with the challenges of change that stakeholders will be experiencing, and they will take the time to work through this stressful time with those who are impacted. This personality type makes a great change manager. They will never interrupt anyone, and it is therefore important to acknowledge amiable personality types during project team meetings and to encourage their input.
It takes a village
It takes many different skillsets to successfully implement a technology project. If given limitless resources to pull from, many of us would most likely end up selecting a team of people with personalities very much like our own. However, the most productive and successful project teams are comprised of a mix of personality types. This is because a mix of personalities is better equipped to take on specific tasks that are suited to their key skillsets. If we were all drivers, there would be little attention to detail. If we were all analytical, the project would never make it to go live as we would be too busy digging around in the weeds. A team of expressive personality types would spend so much time discussing every possible topic, nothing would ever get broken down into tasks. And let’s face it, amiable personality types are far too nice to maneuver through corporate politics and type A executive personalities. As a project sponsor, it becomes important to ensure that the assigned project team is comprised of a mix of personalities that will ensure the timely completion of the project, attention to detail, accurate communication to stakeholders, and consideration as to the required level of change management.