Handling Remote Team Personality Clashes: Think Like a Shrink  by@behzadsharifi

Handling Remote Team Personality Clashes: Think Like a Shrink

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Behzad Sharifi HackerNoon profile picture

Behzad Sharifi

Co-Principal at ResponseCRM | Two-Time "Noonies" Award Winner

Remember when you were in elementary school and there was always one person who raised her hand to answer every question, always trying to impress the teacher and everyone else?

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Or, what about the constant disruptor who made loud animal sounds when the teacher wasn’t looking? (Someone like a future Jonah Hill or Jim Carry). This guy just wanted attention, even if it was negative. Then there was the really smart person, who knew all the answers but was afraid to speak because he was shy. (Albert Einstein was a known introvert). Finally, there was the person who was talented but always had to be right, no matter what, and would like to argue with you and your teacher (Sounds like Larry David).

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Now, imagine if your teacher gave you a team assignment and you had to work with all these people to get a decent grade on a class project? Where do you begin?

That’s when I learned how to think like a shrink—to understand that everyone has a different perspective and to focus on their strengths while trying to keep any of their annoying or challenging habits under control.

Little did I know that those skills would help me to maintain my sanity and achieve the business results I expected while working with all different personality types over the years as an adult. 

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Putting the FUN into dysFUNctional

I’m sure you’ve worked with some of these types of people, whether you hired them, “inherited” them when you took over their team, or chose them to join because after all, no one’s perfect. Their talents may far outweigh their quirks. It takes special skills, like that of a psychologist, to understand the personality type and how to engage with and motivate them most effectively.

Myers-Briggs tests, for example, have popular assessment tools that can help you to understand yourself and the mindset of the people you’re working with so that you can lead and communicate with them in the style that gets results based on their personality. For example, they’ll help you learn how to communicate differently with introverts and extroverts. 

Back to the future

Let’s imagine that many years later I’m working with the same group of people who were on my team in the second grade. This awkward scenario supports the concept of moving far away from home once you’re ready to branch out on your own.

Fortunately, we’ll work together remotely, which gives me more control over virtual team meetings. When all else fails, there’s always the excuse of a poor Internet connection that forces you to end the call and reschedule for a later time. Not that I’ve done that but it’s an option that people understand. 

So, here’s the breakdown by personality type: Suzie, an extrovert, is the know-it-all project manager. George is the interrupter, attention-seeking creative director. Tom, the key software developer, is the quiet genius, and Jim, the marketing manager, likes to argue.

·      Problem: Suzie tries to dominate the meeting with her agenda without taking into consideration that other people need to provide input. 

·      Solution: Send out an agenda to the meeting in advance that allows everyone an opportunity to discuss what’s happening in their area. In advance, let people know how much time each person should plan to speak and that time will be available at the end of the meeting for questions and answers. Be sure to thank Suzie for one of her latest accomplishments in the meeting and, if possible, on your collaboration tool, such as Slack.

·      Problem: George is full of ideas and jokes and he tries to take credit for the work of other team members.

·      Solution: Recognize George for one of his most recent projects. Let him know that you’d like to hear some of his additional ideas during a one-on-one session sometime after the meeting.

·      Problem: Before the meeting, ask Tom to prepare some metrics that show the results of the software he’s developed. Perhaps, he finished it ahead of schedule and that resulted in a faster time-to-market. Make sure the team is aware of these results and how they positively impact the business. 

·      Problem: Jim complains about the limited resources available to achieve his goals and the tight timeline that is making it difficult to get the results he needs. This is where the psychological skills really come in handy. 

·      Solution: Listen closely to Jim and ask him to put together a brief report on the resources needed, the goals that he’s trying to meet, and the time required. Give him the opportunity to express his challenges and don’t argue with him at the meeting. Then look closely at the report and see what makes the most sense and if any adjustments need to be made.

Back to the past

When I think about it, not that much has changed about group dynamics since second grade. I’ve just learned more about how to manage them most effectively and apply those skills to business. I can even deal with the Larry David-type individuals and still remain calm.

And in the remote world, if things get too crazy, you can always shut down the computer and pause. But before you do so, don't forget to vote for my Noonies2021 nomination for the Contributor of the Year in Remote-Teams category.

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