While there is a large volume of literature on highly functioning teams available, most of it focuses on the proper mix of skills and experience. What Hogan Assessment Systems terms the “psychological roles” of team members is often ignored, although it plays a similar, if not more important role in effective teams.
The right mix of personalities is critical when forming a team. This mix consists of the proper balance of psychological roles, the absence of dysfunctional personality characteristics (derailers), and shared values that anchor the team.
The five psychological roles in teams
Hogan identifies five psychological roles that form an integral part of teams:
Team members that gravitate to this role are likely to be socially poised, leaderlike, somewhat competitive, and energetic. They probably will seek leadership roles, direct the team, and drive others toward business goals; however, they may be overly competitive with their peers or subordinates and are not inclined to seek input from others.
Individuals that prefer relationship roles may be perceived as considerate and cooperative team members, who listen to others and foster trust and respect. However, at times they may be excessively focused on getting along with others rather than on results.
Members who are attracted to process roles are likely to be procedurally driven, organized, and attentive to details and implementation. While they may hold high standards of performance, they may be seen as rigid and inflexible and may miss the big picture.
Team members that value innovation, bring originality and creativity to the team. They can be curious and open minded thinkers who focus on the big picture. However, they may have difficulty with pragmatism as they often prefer ideas over implementation.
The pragmatism role is fulfilled by the practical, level headed, cautious members. These team members are hands-on when solving problems, not easily swayed by emotions, and comfortable with conflict. However, they may be seen as ignoring the big picture as well as other peoples’ feelings. Dave Winsborough from Winsborough Limited and co-developer of the Hogan Team Report says that psychological roles need to be balanced in two ways. “First, a team needs to have complementary fit, which is to say it has enough diversity among its members to fill every psychological role.” Teams without complementary fit can develop imbalances and performance gaps. “The other side of building a balanced team is that you have to have enough individuals to provide critical mass in each psychological role,” said Winsborough.
Beware of strengths in over-use
Strengths are important when it comes to effective teams, however, under stress, people’s greatest strength can become their biggest weakness. These tendencies are called derailers or dysfunctional personality characteristics. According to Hogan Assessment Systems, team derailers fall into three categories:
- Distancing derailers help individuals manage anxiety or pressure by maintaining distance from others by pushing them away.
- Agitating derailers help individuals manage situations by manipulating or controlling others.
- Acquiescing derailers help individuals manage their anxiety and stress by building alliances with others.
By recognizing their shared negative characteristics, teams can work to alleviate these and correct problem behaviours as soon as possible.
The Launchpad: Shared Values
The team’s shared values also contribute to how effective it will be. Shared values form the basis for team norms, culture, and decision-making. Hogan Assessment Systems propose that shared team values have the following three main impacts on team effectiveness:
- Coherence: Having common values assists with team bonding and makes working with colleagues easier and more enjoyable. Conflict can be solved more easily in teams with congruent values, allowing them to focus more on substantive, technical, or professional differences.
- Greater efficiency: Team members, who are on the same page with regard to tasks and situations, are likely to have a greater understanding of each other’s needs, and trust one another.
- Stability: Shared values can lead to an increase in members’ commitment to the team and its common goal or purpose, which in turn increases a team motivation and reduces staff turnover.
As we know, high performing teams are an irrefutable advantage to an organisation. Therefore it is vital that organisations focus on achieving not only the right mix of skills, experience, but also personality. This is the crux to creating a productive, dynamic team and overall fulfilled workforce that is able to reach its maximum capacity.