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3 Ways to Effectively Manage Different Personalities

Kendrah Wick
3/29/18 10:59 AM

So, you have a small team made up of different genders, backgrounds, corporate experience, education levels, etc. They don't all respond to the same type of management style, motivation or constructive criticism. What's a manager to do?

I am going to go ahead and use a sports analogy here (hello, MARCH MADNESS)- because aside from being a manager, I also coach high school basketball. I have found, over the years, that being a coach and being manager are essentially the same thing. In the gym, I've got 15 teenagers, all dealing with their own high school angst, Mom & Dad, boyfriends, teachers, grades. I've got short ones and tall ones, Seniors and Freshmen, different skill levels and I have to get everyone on the same page and path in order to have a successful season. In the office, I've got 7 people, all dealing with paying bills, a spouse, children, Mom & Dad, none of which majored in the field they are currently working in.

These are the  3 ways that enabled me to effectively coach and manage all these different team members - both on the court and in the cubicle:

1. Adjust: This is going to take some time, but you are going to have to adjust to each personality. That means being an observer - an observer of action, reaction, body language, facial expression. These are all indicators that something is working or not working for a particular person. Take notes. Keep track of the methods that work with one person, but not with another. Then adjust your approach, your timing, in some cases, your tone. Don't be afraid to test and try new things. SIDE NOTE: Some of these methods may work universally for your entire team. Those are golden.

2. Conduct 1:1s: Often times I have players that require a little extra time, either working on a skill or working through an issue. Scheduling time to individually speak with and work with team members is invaluable. Aside from showing you care, it gives them a chance to voice their thoughts, feelings, and concerns. One of my former managers offered up a great approach for these 1:1 meetings- Stop, Start, Continue. In each 1:1 meeting, offer up something the individual should stop doing, start doing or continue doing. Sometimes there isn't always a stop and/or a start, but the activity makes them aware of any issues and aware that you are observing and can offer them some constructive criticism about how to improve.

3. Apply the Buddy System: This is a very interesting tactic and it worked for me both on the court and in the office. In basketball, I partner certain players together for drills or individual work. Sometimes it is a Senior with a Freshmen, for mentor-ship or guidance. Sometimes it is a player with a particular strong skill working with a player who isn't as skilled in that area. In the office, the latter is huge. Perhaps you have a team member who struggles with time-management- partner them up with your well-organized and highly-efficient team member. Let them share processes and ideas, let them see how the other is working and offer suggestions. Sometimes it's easier coming from a peer than a manager. This method is generally used for new employees in order to learn the ropes and get up to speed, but it can be just as beneficial for long-time employees who may need a refresher in process and procedure or may just need to socialize a bit more in the workplace.

I encourage players to watch and observe other players all the time. In the workplace, this can be listening to sales calls, trying words or phrases picked up from co-workers, roll play, etc. And while the team is made up of all different types of people, it's a reminder to share and work collaboratively towards their common goal - be it the state play-offs or hitting that monthly quota.

For more on expanding your manager skill set, check out Tips on Developing a Manager Mindset

How to manage different personalities in the workplace

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