Personality
Photos by Getty Images (US), Inc.

Leverage the Power of Personality Differences

Do you appreciate the different personalities and perspectives of the people on your staff? When you better understand others, you can take advantage of the team’s combined strength and help them achieve the results you’re aiming for.

By Freddi Donner

No matter what you have been trained to do, your most important skill set is your ability to communicate with others. Unless you are a hermit and happy to work alone and not interact with others (yes, we all have days like that!), your best asset is your ability to connect and communicate effectively. And this journey begins with who you are now.

You and your management/leadership style are an accumulation of past events, former teachers, media messages, books you’ve read and liked, parents and religious traditions, and more. You have “collected” a lot of information, much of which makes you the effective person you are today. And it will serve you well to notice two things: The way you look at the world is just that—a lens that is uniquely your own—and the people you work with each bring their unique lens to work with them too.

More important than being liked, most people want to be understood. We often are quick to judge others if they look or act or speak differently. If you would like to be more charismatic and leader-like, stop judging and become more understanding and appreciative of differences. Differences represent a source of internal strength for teams. When you appreciate and use team members’ differences, you can solve problems more holistically and efficiently.

So how do you become more understanding? 

Differences represent a source of internal strength for teams. When you appreciate and use team members’ differences, you can solve problems more holistically and efficiently. 

Get curious. When you begin to do research on any project, you simply collect data. You are not evaluating it, only gathering it. And once you have enough information, you sort it. The same is true with people—just notice what causes someone to laugh, hide, speak up, or get irritated. When you get curious, you can collect more information, which will enable you to appreciate and understand others better. Stop judging and get curious.

Listen more. We are often so eager to share our intelligence and our perspective that we do not fully hear what is being delivered right to us in a conversation. When you listen, you learn. When you listen with an open mind, you learn even more, because you are not evaluating and justifying—you are simply taking data in. Clients typically feel safe around professional coaches, who are trained to listen, observe, and pick up innuendos, because they feel heard and understood. Anyone can learn this skill, and the better you get at it, the more appealing you become.

Change. If you are ready to take advantage of differences, change the way you communicate by asking more insightful questions. You can learn a great deal about others by asking great questions and fully listening to the answers. Then, and only then, will you know what to change in your communications. For example, some people have a “problem-focused/away from” orientation, while others have a “possibility-focused/toward” orientation. When you discover this clue about another person and then change the way you share information with him or her, you can get substantially better results and buy-in.

As long as you are working, you will interact with others who share a common goal but are different from you. To better understand others, start with understanding you—your blind spots and your strengths. Once you understand what your default settings are (where you are coming from), get curious about others. Ask questions, then listen. Then use the information to change your communications.

When you are willing to understand and appreciate personality differences, you become more charismatic. You become more influential. You become a better leader. Then you can build the internal strength in you and your team for lasting business stamina.

Freddi Donner, ACC, NLP, is president of Business Stamina and a seasoned executive coach specializing in the power of communication and interpersonal skills to achieve professional growth and business development goals. Email: [email protected]

Diversity and Inclusion Performance Management