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Do you love parties or hate them?
For most people, the answer is: it depends. Who’s at the party? How well do I know them? Am I comfortable in my surroundings and with people I enjoy being around?
Group dynamics have a powerful influence on individual behavior, at parties and in the workplace. If you aren’t aware of the impact of those dynamics, you’re probably missing out on important contributions from certain members of your team.
Think about your leadership team for a moment. When you walk into a meeting, how well do you really know the room?
Dominant? Yes. Dominate? No.
The communication styles of your team members have everything to do with the value they’re able to provide—and their experience of being part of your organization.
We live in a society that prizes extroversion. Dominant personalities—louder, fast-talking, “own the room” types tend to drive the conversation.
To be clear: there’s nothing wrong with a dominant personality. But in a group setting, a dominant style can inadvertently step on other voices. As a business leader, it’s your job to mediate between different styles on your team.
You need to acknowledge and understand all kinds of personalities, and manage the dynamic to give everyone a fair shot at self-expression.
Do quiet people have better ideas? Sometimes. Not always.
The point is that you’ll never know if they don’t have a chance to share them.
Mining all the gold
I recently worked with a client who had a new employee on their senior team. A senior team where everybody else tends to have the answers. I didn’t count, but I’d estimate that out of 5 people, he said a total of 5% of the words spoken during an 8-hour session.
Now, I don’t know if his input is right or wrong, but there could be some gold there. And as a consultant, I’m greedy. I want my clients to have all the gold.
I don’t want to overprescribe a solution, but I do want you to consider the potential challenge.
How can you work with your team in a way that supports who they are and helps them make their best contributions?
The one thing that I KNOW works is to build trust.
When you trust the people you work with, you feel safe. You’re willing to speak your mind, even if you’re uncomfortable (or willing to not speak your mind, even if you’re uncomfortable).
That matters because there is personal accountability in these situations. A person less likely to engage needs the space to feel safe doing so. But they may also need to push themselves to speak up more often than they would like.
The litmus test for when you’re there? Everyone in the room is able to politely tell the others they’re wrong, regardless of hierarchies or politics.
This happens regularly with one of my most successful clients. And when a senior leader tells the CEO that respectfully, they’ve made a mistake, it deepens their bond of trust and affirms that everyone in the room has the right to speak their mind.
So how do you get there? Focus on culture. Earn trust by giving it. Start by making yourself keenly aware of the fact that people are different.
One of the best tools we have in our company for this work is DISC profiles. What I love about DISC is that there are no winners or losers, no good or bad personalities.
There are only people, who are who they are, waiting to be accepted and understood.