Creating positive team dynamics is crucial for a high-performing team to operate effectively. When teams are made up of diverse talent, interpersonal dynamics consist of differences in personality, behavior, communication styles, and work styles.
When members of an individual team understand each other's personalities and can work together effectively towards a common goal, it leads to a positive team culture in which unmanaged conflict is less likely to arise.
However, a positive group dynamic and environment are difficult to achieve and can be challenging for anyone working with those who think and operate differently. Failing to understand the different ways team members operate can lead to harmful tension and distract from the bottom line.
Understanding Your Natural Strengths
Understanding differences in personality and perspective is beneficial but hard to do. It's challenging to work with varying styles of personality because it's natural to judge, instead of leverage, these differences. It's also frustrating when team members misunderstand your personality, which causes tension and affects the ability to reach team goals.
Usual Behavior, a Birkman term for how people perceive us, reflects our natural strengths. If team members have different behavioral styles, we often think their approach is the wrong approach. The first step in creating effective teams starts with reminding yourself that there are strengths that other perspectives have that yours might not.
When Usual Behaviors are in contrast with the work styles of others, the interpersonal dynamics that result become a common source of misunderstanding, misperception, and conflict.
Becoming Self-Aware and Socially Aware
We all have needs.
Birkman measures Needs to determine how we perceive the world, how we believe others should treat us, and the work environment in which we are motivated and productive.
Needs reflect the social expectations we consider our truth.
For example, someone with a high Need for social interaction and great communication skills will prefer a work environment where communication flows, and social activities are readily available.
However, it is often not known that people have Needs that are different from our own. A social butterfly might not realize that their coworker has a low Need for social interaction and performs best working independently.
Positive team dynamics can go sour because people aren't aware of each other's Needs. Even worse, individuals may judge the social responses of others based on the expectation that their needs are the same. For a team to openly discuss their Needs, a team must have psychological safety.
Signs of weak leadership include a lack of trust and fear of being openly honest, resulting in turnover, reduced productivity, and frustration. Strong leaders do the opposite and develop a psychologically safe environment by encouraging open communication, embracing failure as a learning opportunity, and promoting collaboration.
Team leaders must prioritize creating a psychologically safe environment where team members are comfortable voicing their individual needs and the work environment they need to thrive.
Focusing on Activities That Keep You Motivated
Birkman Interests reflect the activities we naturally gravitate towards and enjoy. If you value one interest and another team member does not, it feels like that colleague doesn't care about you.
For example, if you are interested in the aesthetic elements of your work product, you'll take time and effort working on these details of your project. If your coworker values numerical tasks more, they might think you are wasting time worrying about artistic elements and aim to pull the project in a more fact-based direction. You can see how these differing Interests can cause a misalignment in goals and team cohesion.
However, when Interests are understood and appropriately used at work, engaging these interests can motivate and keep you productive. By not understanding each other's Interests, it is easy to take it personally when someone walks in a different direction than you. It also makes prioritizing tasks very difficult and can negatively affect team performance.
Interests can influence what team members prioritize and the perceptions of how coworkers focus time and energy, leading to behavior consequences. Outside of work, you can use your Interests to feel more balanced and energized when you return to work. Teams fail because they don't prioritize the tasks that do not interest them. For example, if a team is not interested in processes, they will never have a plan for success. Low Interests can reduce team effectiveness and cause blind spots for the entire group if the team avoids a specific type of work.
On the other hand, an overload of a particular Interest can cause blind spots by spending too much time focusing on a specific aspect of work. Team meetings and effective communication can help team members understand each other's interests, prioritize tasks, and be more efficient by working on things that they like to work on.
The Reality of Diverse Personalities
High-performing teams are made up of diverse mindsets and behavioral styles, which can be a great asset. However, with diversity comes personality clashing, misunderstanding different communication styles, and failing to collaborate.
Personality clashing happens when people are different, but the differences are not appreciated. Clashing often results in your strengths turning into overused strengths or roadblocks, resulting in poor team dynamics. For example, one team member may be insistent about how tasks are completed, while the other is flexible and opposes structure. Someone whose strength is flexibility may offer various options, while someone whose strength is insistence may be set in their ways. Although both individuals may be trying to solve the same issue, the overused strengths of both teammates do not allow the team to reach its goal. This ultimately causes frustration, interpersonal tension, and poor group dynamics. Both people likely walk away from this project feeling unheard and dissatisfied with the outcome.
Poor communication affects successful teams by causing misalignment and misunderstanding. Communicating across personality styles is challenging. Team members may become passive-aggressive towards each other, mostly because they cannot handle personality differences effectively. Miscommunication causes priorities to fall out of sync, leading to team friction and uncertainty. Collaboration decreases when roles are unclear and no one is communicating.
However, by openly talking, many of the personality clashes and team conflicts mentioned above are avoidable. Effectively communicating can create positive dynamics. If the insistent person and the flexible person are aware of their different styles, they can have a more productive discussion.
Using the insight you have on others' styles can help you appreciate the viewpoints of others, create strong team dynamics, and reduce the chance of taking differences personally, which helps with conflict resolution.
Failure to establish successful collaboration occurs even if your team is talented.
The team can fail if purpose, clarity, and psychological safety are not present within the team and company. Team members might not fully understand the purpose of a project and might ask, "What's in it for me?" or "What is the point of this?"
Without an understanding of purpose, employees might not feel motivated to give a project 100%, reducing the quality of their work. In this situation, clarity is missing from the purpose. For a purpose to be useful, it must be communicated with clarity.
Finally, high-performing teams need an element of psychological safety to openly discuss different viewpoints and solutions without fear.
Steps to Manage Interpersonal Dynamics
Although some effects of having diverse perspectives on a team may be complex, the outcome of having different styles on a team often leads to greater success if managed correctly. Resolving differences in work style and conflict is challenging but necessary to get your team to the next level of performance and overcome perceptual differences.
Step 1: Take time to evaluate and understand the dynamics that make up your team. Team members should understand their strengths, the strengths of others, and the differences between individual work styles.
Step 2: The team should talk about differences in personality throughout their day-to-day work. When interpersonal dynamics like these go unaddressed, unwanted consequences will result, ultimately causing failure.
Step 3: Nurture the foundation for a high-performing environment by establishing purpose, clarity, and psychological safety across everything the team does to motivate each member towards the same success.
Step 4: When personality issues cause apparent clashes, address them in an open, non-judgmental way as part of your team culture. This ensures individual differences won't cause harm quietly in the background. It's a good idea to encourage team members to explore solutions that avoid strengths turning into overused behaviors. The best solution may be for team members to become willing to step out of their comfort zone.
Step 5: It's also helpful to equip the team to solve complex communication challenges. You can drive social awareness through lighthearted team building activities, where each person describes their viewpoint of a situation and has an opportunity to hear the viewpoints of others. Use this foundation to emphasize open communication and transparency through team challenges and projects.
Step 6: To improve collaboration, the leader should lay the groundwork of a meaningful purpose so the team works towards the same goal. Tie the work back to the organization's mission and how it benefits your audience. Consistently work on clarifying tasks and decisions to foster an aligned understanding of the shared goal to drive the entire team's work.
Step 7: Finally, you'll need to ensure you take the right steps to establish trust. Psychological safety empowers the team to appreciate and listen to different viewpoints and learn from errors. Multiple perspectives put more ideas on the table, resulting in more innovative thinking that drives better solutions to overcome complex problems.
Empower Your Team with Purpose, Clarity, and Psychological Safety
Learning to appreciate each other's differences is key to having a successful, high-performing team and improves productivity, morale, communication, and collaboration. When you invest in learning about each other's unique styles and have open conversations to prevent conflict and misunderstanding, team members value and use each other's differences. Together, the team is better equipped to overcome blind spots.
Birkman's High-Performing Teams workshop is designed to build purpose, clarity, and psychological safety, providing teams with operational stability to solve complex problems. This 8-hour workshop highlights individual and team strengths, overused strengths, motivators, and expectations. Participants learn to recognize and appreciate that team members must utilize a variety of behavioral approaches to achieve success. See first-hand how this workshop empowers teams.