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Types of Team Members

How to Manage Different Personalities

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Many personality types come together to form a project team. If you're put in charge of a team, you should spend some time thinking about the personalities you'll face. Your charge is to use the strength of each member and minimize the negative factors.

At first, choosing individuals for a given position will seem easy: the mathematician should get the job of looking after the finances; the popular person will be in charge of sales. But not so fast.

You will notice that team members have to be motivated and managed, regardless of their apparent social and intellectual strengths. Observe a few examples:

1. The Savvy Slacker

The savvy slacker is smart but a little on the lazy side. He spends much of his effort getting out of doing his fair share. He knows how to do things, he knows what is needed, he is an expert at many things--but he doesn’t actually do anything unless he is micro-managed.

 

Quote from a savvy slacker: “I’ll meet with you guys later but I really have to go right now.”

How to manage a savvy slacker: Acknowledge the best traits of the savvy slacker and praise him/her for these qualities. Then assign very specific roles that can be done a little at a time. Assign deadlines and require that he/she provide feedback along the way.

 

2. The (Handy) Grumpy Smarty Pants

It doesn’t matter how many hard facts are behind a suggestion, the grumpy smarty pants will be negative about an idea. The good news is that this team member does usually come up with good alternatives.

Quote from a grumpy smarty pants: “That won’t work.”

How to manage a grumpy smarty pants: Treat this team member with tolerance and patience. Since this team member can generate some really good ideas, it is worth listening to three grumbles to get to the one nugget of brilliance. Remember—he’s smart. He just hasn’t learned to choose his battles yet.

3. The Workhorse

The workhorse is the person who could end up doing all the real work, once he reveals himself to other team members. As a team manager, you’ll have to keep an eye out for this possibility. There is a danger (if a workhorse is detected) that the team will pile all the work onto the workhorse, and the workhorse will burn out.

Quote from a workhorse: “I’ll do that if you don’t have time.”

How to manage a workhorse: If you notice somebody volunteering to take on the work of his fellow team members a little too much, you should step in. By allowing the team to take advantage of one member, you will run the risk of letting the entire team fall apart. In the end, nothing will be accomplished.

4. The Flash-in-the-Pan

A flash-in-the-pan starts out full of energy and optimism at the team’s initial meeting, then disappears from sight. He volunteers a lot--then doesn’t follow through.

Quote from the flash-in-the-pan: (On the first day) “Do you mind if I stay late tonight?"

 

How to manage a flash-in-the-pan: The flash-in-the-pan wants to be liked, and that is why he comes across with lots of promise. But people who really want to be liked can actually be people who lack self-confidence.

The flash-in-the-pan may disappear from sight because he’s convinced he/she will let everybody down. To avoid this, you should keep an eye out for somebody who volunteers for too many roles on the first day. Make sure the job assignments are equitable and manageable.

5. The Invisible Man

You will know the invisible man, because he will be the one bending down to pick up an invisible pencil from the floor when you ask for volunteers.

 

Quote from the invisible man: [silence]

How to manage an invisible man: Before the team is dismissed from the first meeting, make sure that every member (even the silent one) has a job to do and a role to fill. If the invisible man didn’t show up for the first meeting, arrange a one-on-one meeting and give him/her the assignments.

6. The New Best Friend

The new best friend is the popular kid who takes advantage of the unpopular kids. Everybody recognizes this team member.

 

Quote from the new best friend: “Hey, man, can you do me a big favor?”

How to manage the new best friend: If you suspect that one team member will take advantage of other (less popular) members, it may be necessary to have every team member keep notes. Require that your team email individual progress reports every few days.

If team members are pressed to provide notes about what they’re up to, they’ll be less tempted to dump their work. Also—you will know that something is up if you see two members claiming work for the same task.

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