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Understand Personality to Be a Better Leader

Everyone has had a bad experience with a failed collaboration. Whether it be a failed partnership with an outside agency, an unsuccessful group initiative at work, or even a dreaded group project from your days in school, you know first hand how important good relationships are to make a project work.

In the workplace, your interactions with your colleagues matter. But, ensuring positive and supportive connections between your coworkers can be a tough task. According to Michelle Mock, Owner and Principal Consultant of Collaborative Thinking Leadership Development Services, one important aspect of building a healthy and successful partnership is accounting for the different emotions and personality preferences of each person.

In a breakout session entitled “Understanding Personality Preferences” at the Next Generation of Government Training Summit, Mock and her team advised participants on emotional intelligence, some of the different personalities measured by the Myer-Briggs test and how agencies can strike a balance between different sides of the spectrum.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is more than just identifying emotions. In their book Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Drs. Terry Bradberry and Jean Greaves explain that, “emotional intelligence is your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.” For this reason, making the most of your emotional intelligence at work requires paying attention to both your feelings, as well as your coworker’s.

Making an investment in your own emotional intelligence is crucial, Mock explained, because it plays a significant role in leadership. Research has shown that there are three main categories that play a role in predicting leadership success. IQ and subject matter expertise each, on average, predict between 7 and 10 percent of future success, whereas emotional intelligence is responsible for 80 percent or more.

To embrace your emotions, and account for those of the people around you, Mock recommends a few helpful strategies for self-management.

  1. Shift your thinking. When an interaction with a coworker goes awry, it can be easy to fall victim to negative thinking. If you assume the worst, and forget or ignore the emotions of your partner, it can be challenging to work together. To avoid this problem, Mock suggested that you shift your thinking by always starting by assuming honorable and positive intent. If this strategy isn’t enough, another way to recalibrate your thoughts is to pause and appreciate what you like about your coworker, and remind yourself about everything they do well.
  2. Pay more attention to your body. Body language matters, not only because it telegraphs to others how you are feeling, but also because you can change your emotions by adopting different body language. If you find yourself angry, frustrated or annoyed, focus on your positioning. After noticing your body, try to straighten your spine, take deep breaths and smile. Your body, and your emotions, will notice a difference.
  3. Learn to recognize more emotions. It may sound counterintuitive, but knowing and recognizing more emotions can actually help you control them better. If you can identify the many different and complex emotions in all your responses, it can be easier to embrace the positive reactions, while still recognizing the negative ones.

Personality Preferences

Everyone is born with different preferences, and over time these predilections harden and become more solid. To understand and evaluate your own personality inclinations, the best strategy is to focus on what you find energizing. It’s easy to slip into the familiar, and only perform the tasks that allow us to use the aspects of our personality that are comfortable, but stretching outside our natural preferences helps us to grow and be better.

In her talk, Mock focused on two aspects on the Myers-Briggs spectrum: extraversion versus introversion and sensing versus intuition. For both traits, the opposite ends of the spectrum think and act very differently. For example, extroverts are happy to attend last-minute meetings, whereas introverts generally prefer time to review the agenda beforehand. Sensors tend to be focused on the day-to-day, unlike intuitors who like to think about the big picture in the long term.

Your employees’ personality preferences may be very different from each other, which can make it challenging to be an effective manager. But, embracing the distinctions can be incredibly rewarding. Because opposite types tend to complement each other, pairing up different personalities on the same project can go a long way to ensure its success. This approach gives your team the best of both worlds, and manages to turn each employee’s strength into an advantage for your agency.

By embracing the differences in emotions and personalities amongst your coworkers, you can help strengthen your team’s work and improve your effectiveness as a leader. Have you tried these strategies, or any others? Share your experience in the comments below.

This blog post is a recap of a session that took place at the recent Next Generation of Government Summit. Want to see more great insights that came out of NextGen? Head here.

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