Adapting to personalities key to teamwork

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Randall Groves
  • 71st Flying Training Wing chaplain
"Why can't I get along with anyone at work? Everyone misunderstands me!"

I have heard this phrase a few times over the last 16 years, and I've learned to be suspicious when an Airman uses the term "everyone."

I often surmise that there is an issue with the Airman, not with everyone. I take these opportunities to educate the concerned individual about how personality differences impact the way a team communicates.

Teamwork requires that every member understand his or her personality and teammates personalities. Effective team members understand and adapt to others instead of expecting everyone to adapt to them. To communicate with excellence, utilize your teammate's communication style when communicating with them.

For example, extraverts, or outwardly-oriented people, are energized by interaction. They prefer to think out loud. To adapt, don't be surprised if what they say is not well thought out. Expect to get thinking as it occurs and give them room to talk it out. In general, expect to hear a lot; extraverts will push information to you.

Introverts, or inwardly-oriented people, are de-energized by interaction. They prefer to think before they speak. To adapt, give them adequate time alone to gather their thoughts. Expect to hear less from an introvert than an extrovert. In fact, introverts may leave you feeling that they have more to say. You may need to "pull" information by asking questions.

Some Airmen are thinkers, preferring to make decisions based on logic and an objective analysis of a situation. Thinkers are motivated by ideas that progress by clear steps, toward a solution. They seek to discover the most logical course of action. To adapt, don't overload thinkers with emotional information. Instead give them the facts, and present your ideas in a logical, clear order.

Other Airmen are feelers. They prefer to make decisions based on what is best for relationships. Feelers are motivated by ideas that have a positive impact on people. They seek to discover a course of action that best supports people, relationships and the team. To adapt, minimize metrics and show how people, relationships and the team will benefit from an idea.

Understanding and adapting to others is all about respect. As teammates it is our responsibility to respect other by recognizing diversity in personalities and communication styles, then finding ways to adapt for the good of the team and mission.

According to Air Force Instruction 1-1, paragraph 1.8, "Diversity is a military necessity. Air Force capabilities and warfighting skills are enhanced by diversity among its personnel."

I would argue that a variety of personalities and communication styles makes us stronger, but only if we recognize our differences and learn to adapt to each other.

Don't wait for others to adapt to your personality and communication style. Demonstrate excellence by adapting to your team mates. Your team and the mission will benefit greatly.