The “I” in Team

Jul 28, 2015


You’ve all probably heard the phrase: “There’s no ‘I’ in team.” At its core, this statement means that in order to be successful as a group, each contributor needs to have a focus on the greater good. However, Elicit’s team is full of “I’s.” Just probably not the kind you’re thinking of.

When I first started at Elicit, I had the opportunity to take the Golden Personality Type Profiler. It became apparent right away that this was something that everyone else at the company took and was very open about. What wasn’t immediately apparent was how many great benefits there were in understanding personality types.

Of the 16 possible Myers-Briggs personality types, I discovered I am an ENTP (Extroversion, Intuition, Thinking, and Perception). Personality types are difficult to explain in only a few words, but basically I focus my energy extroverting rather than introverting, gather my information intuiting rather than sensing, make decisions in a thinking manner versus feeling, and approach life perceiving over judging. There is an abundance of research about personality types that goes into much greater detail, such as this book: You : Being more effective in your MBTI Type.

This self-awareness allows me to become a better teammate. For example, growing up I always reasoned with logic and often ignored the feelings of others. If I had an opinion on something, I would say it, even if it resulted in hurting someone else’s feelings. Understanding my personality type not only made me aware of how I was interacting with others, but also gave me ways to adjust how I communicated with certain people.

As important as self-awareness is, understanding personality types may be even more beneficial when working with teammates. Often times I’ve found it difficult to work with strong judging personalities. I came across this a few months ago when working on an internal project. My “J” teammate was very systematic, methodical, and structured with specific milestone dates for completion. My personal approach is the exact opposite, as I am much more casual. I’ve found that I work better under pressure, so sometimes I let a looming deadline serve as motivation. In either scenario the work still gets done, but understanding how my teammate functions really helped me learn how to adjust my personal schedule to meet her intermediate checkpoints.

My mentor is an ISFJ, which happens to be my complete opposite personality type. You would think we’d be about as compatible as oil and water, but we actually make a great team. The best skill learned from this relationship is that when I’m working on a project without her that happens to be filled with teammates similar to my own type, I can see where we are lacking. For example, in a room full of N’s (NP’s especially), meetings often turn into ideating sessions and have a tendency to get off track. Adding a sensing personality would bring in more tangible facts and a “J” personality would most likely bring the focus of the group back on track. So now when I notice my team meandering off task, I can adjust how I am interacting to recalibrate the group.

Furthermore, learning how to gauge personality types is a great skill to have when working with clients. Recently in a meeting there were a few clients who weren’t actively participating in a brainstorming conversation. After the meeting we determined that they might be introverts, which means they are much more likely to internally develop their ideas before expressing them to a group. One solution for future sessions included sending out materials before the meeting so they could develop ideas before discussing. Another was to work in smaller, more intimate groups. In this case we followed up the session with an email for any additional comments that they didn’t have the opportunity to express in the meeting. We noticed the adjusted format really allowed for the “I’s” to contribute and the project benefitted from their input.

As you can see, it’s beneficial to have an “I” on a Team, along with an “E,” “S,” “N,” “F,” “T,” “J,” and “P!” The best teams aren’t made up of a group of people with the exact same personalities. Successful teams are the ones who balance each other out and work with each other towards a common goal.