When I was a student, the words “group project” sucked the life from me. They meant I was going to get paired up with someone who wouldn’t put in any effort, and I’d get stuck doing more than my fair share. Based on years of talking about this in workshops, I’ve found many others who shared my concern.
Why aren’t they more like me?
Over time I’ve started to better understand my feelings about this. While my beliefs may have been that my teammates wouldn’t be as hardworking or smart as I was, the truth was probably closer to, “they won’t do things the way I like them to be done.”
For many of us, these feelings carried over into our work lives. We continually find ourselves paired up with people with whom we don’t like to work. We make judgments about their work ethic and character.
The real problem is that they aren’t like us. But why would that be a problem? Diversity makes a team stronger, right? Intellectually that’s easy to understand. Emotionally, it’s much tougher to handle.
If people in your group aren’t getting along, it may be that they don’t have a gut-level appreciation for the differences that exist within the team. It’s your job to help them see it.
Assess the styles
Use one of the many assessments on the market. There are tests that will help people see what color they are or what their work style is. The Myers-Briggs Thematic Inventory is still going strong.
While these assessments all promise to deliver detailed insights, I’ve found they almost always put people in one of four boxes that can be summed up as follows:
- Hard-charging, goal-driven
- Detail-oriented, process
- Quiet, relationship-oriented
- Expressive, creative
Respond in two ways
Regardless of the tool, my advice is always the same. First, tone down any extreme behaviors associated with your style. Second, pay attention to your coworkers’ types and do what you can to treat others the way they want to be treated.
By the way, they don’t need to be typed with one of these assessment tools for you to get know their wants and needs. Spend time with them. Ask questions. Observe their reactions. You’ll figure it out.
Differences can and do create problems for a team. They also offer tremendous opportunities. Those will only be discovered by teams that learn more about those differences and figure out how to take advantage of them.