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Business LibreTexts

5.1: Working with Individuals

  • Page ID
  • Learning Objectives

    1. Describe emotional intelligence.
    2. Describe personality types and tools used to describe them.
    3. Describe the relationship between leadership style and personality types.
    4. Describe people skills that are necessary for negotiation and conflict resolution.
    5. Describe how work is delegated.
    6. Describe individual goals that are related to personality types.

    Working with other people involves dealing with them both logically and emotionally. A successful working relationship between individuals begins with appreciating the importance of emotions and how they relate to personality types, leadership styles, negotiations, and setting goals.

    Emotional Intelligence

    Emotions are neither positive nor negative. Emotions are both a mental and physiological response to environmental and internal stimuli. Leaders need to understand and value their emotions to appropriately respond to the client, project team, and project environment. Daniel Goleman (Goleman, 1995) discussed emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) as a factor more important than IQ in predicting leadership success. According to Robert Cooper and Ayman Sawaf, “Emotional intelligence is the ability to sense, understand, and effectively apply the power and acumens of emotions as a source of human energy, information, connection, and influence” (Cooper & Sawaf, 1997).

    Emotional intelligence includes the following:

    • Self-awareness
    • Self-regulation
    • Empathy
    • Relationship management

    Emotions are important to generating energy around a concept, to building commitment to goals, and to developing high-performing teams. Emotional intelligence is an important part of the project manager’s ability to build trust among the team members and with the client. It is an important factor in establishing credibility and an open dialogue with project stakeholders. Emotional intelligence is a critical ability for project managers, and the more complex the project profile, the more important the project manager’s EQ becomes to project success.

    Personality Types

    Personality types refer to the difference among people. Understanding your personality type as a project manager will assist you in understanding your tendencies and strengths in different situations. Understanding personality types can also help you understand the contributions of various members of your team and the various needs of your client.

    There are a number of tools for helping people assess personality types, such as the DISC acronym, which stands for the following:

    • Dominance—relates to control, power, and assertiveness
    • Influence—relates to social situations and communication
    • Steadiness—relates to patience, persistence, and thoughtfulness
    • Conscientiousness—relates to structure and organization

    These four dimensions are then grouped to represent various personality types.

    The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is one of most widely used tools for exploring personal preference, with more than two million people taking the MBTI each year. The MBTI is often referred to as simply the Myers-Briggs. It is a tool that can be used in project management training to develop awareness of preferences for processing information and relationships with other people.

    Based on the theories of psychologist Carl Jung, the Myers-Briggs uses a questionnaire to gather information on the ways individuals prefer to use their perception and judgment. Perception represents the way people become aware of people and their environment. Judgment represents the evaluation of what is perceived. People perceive things differently and reach different conclusions based on the same environmental input. Understanding and accounting for these differences is critical to successful project leadership.

    The Myers-Briggs identifies sixteen personality types based on four preferences derived from the questionnaire. The preferences are between pairs of opposite characteristics and include the following:

    • Extroversion (E)-Introversion (I)
    • Sensing (S)-Intuition (N)
    • Thinking (T)-Feeling (F)
    • Judging (J)-Perceiving (P)

    Sixteen Myers-Briggs types can be derived from the four dichotomies. Each of the sixteen types describes a preference: for focusing on the inner or outer world (E-I), for approaching and internalizing information (S-I), for making decisions (T-F), and for planning (J-P). For example, an ISTJ is a Myers-Briggs type who prefers to focus on the inner world and basic information, prefers logic, and likes to decide quickly.

    It is important to note that there is no best type and that effective interpretation of the Myers-Briggs requires training. The purpose of the Myers-Briggs is to understand and appreciate the differences among people. This understanding can be helpful in building the project team, in developing common goals, and communicating with project stakeholders. For example, different people process information differently. Extraverts prefer face-to-face meetings as the primary means of communicating, while introverts prefer written communication. Sensing types focus on facts, and intuitive types want the big picture.

    On larger, more complex projects, some project managers will use the Myers-Briggs as a team-building tool during project start-up. This is typically a facilitated work session where team members take the Myers-Briggs and share with the team how they process information, what communication approaches they prefer, and what decision-making preferences they have. This allows the team to identify potential areas of conflict, develop communication strategies, and build an appreciation for the diversity of the team.

    Personality Type Badges

    One project team in South Carolina used color-coded badges for the first few weeks of the project to indicate Myers-Briggs type. For this team, this was a way to explore how different team members processed information, made decisions, and took action.

    Some people use a description of personality types that is based on research that shows that some functions of thinking and perception are localized on the left or right side of the brain. In this system, the left side of the brain is associated with recalling specific facts and definitions and performing calculations, while the right side of the brain is associated with emotions, estimates, and comparisons. The attraction of this system is that it categorizes people into just two categories—left or right brain dominance—but it should be used cautiously to avoid oversimplification.

    Understanding the differences among people is a critical leadership skill. This includes understanding how people process information, how different experiences will influence the way people perceive the environment, and how people develop filters that allow certain information to be incorporated while other information is excluded. The more complex the project, the more important the understanding of how people process information, make decisions, and deal with conflict.

    Leadership Styles

    Leadership is a function of both the personal characteristics of the leader and the environment in which the leadership must occur. Several researchers have attempted to understand leadership from the perspective of the characteristics of the leader and the environment of the situation. Robert Tannenbaum and Warren Schmidt (Tannenbaum & Schmidt, 1958). described leaders as either autocratic or democratic. Harold Leavitt (Leavitt, 1986) described leaders as pathfinders (visionaries), problem solvers (analytical), or implementers (team oriented). James MacGregor Burns (Burns, 1978) conceived leaders as either transactional (focused on actions and decisions) or transformational (focused on the long-term needs of the group and organization).

    Fred Fiedler (Fiedler, 1971) introduced contingency theory and the ability of leaders to adapt their leadership approach to the environment. Most leaders have a dominant leadership style that is most comfortable. For example, most engineers spend years training in analytical problem solving and often develop an analytical approach to leadership.

    A leadership style reflects personal characteristics and life experiences. Although a project manager’s leadership style may be predominantly a pathfinder (using Leavitt’s taxonomy), most project managers become problem solvers or implementers when they perceive the need for these leadership approaches. The leadership approach incorporates the dominant leadership style and Fiedler’s contingency focus on adapting to the project environment.

    No particular leadership approach is specifically appropriate for managing a project. Each project has a unique set of circumstances because, by definition, projects are unique endeavors. The leadership approach and the management skills required to be successful vary depending on the complexity profile of the project. The Project Management Institute published research that studied project management leadership skills (Shi & Chen, 2006) and concluded that project managers needed good communication skills and the ability to build harmonious relationships and motivate others. Beyond this broad set of leadership skills, the successful leadership approach will depend of the profile of the project.

    A transactional project manager with a strong command and control leadership approach may be very successful on a small software development project or a construction project, where tasks are clear, roles are well understood, and the project environment is cohesive. This same project manager is less likely to be successful on a larger, more complex project with a diverse project team and complicated work processes.

    Matching the appropriate leadership style and approach to the complexity profile of the project is a critical element of project success. Even experienced project managers are less likely to be successful if their leadership approach does not match the complexity profile of the project.

    Each project phase may also require a different leadership approach. During the start-up phase of a project, when new team members are first assigned to the project, the project may require a command and control leadership approach. Later, as the project moves into the conceptual development phase, creativity becomes important, and the project management takes on a more transformational type leadership approach. Most experienced project managers are able to adjust their leadership approach to the needs of the project phase. Occasionally, on very large, complex projects, some companies will change project managers after the conceptual phase of the project to bring in a different project leadership approach or change project managers to manage the closeout of a project. Changing project managers may bring the right level of experience and the appropriate leadership approach but is also disruptive to a project. Senior management must balance the benefit of matching the right leadership approach with the cost of disrupting the project.

    Multinational Chemical Plant Project

    On a project to build a new chemical plant that produced dyes for paint, the project manager led a team that included members from partners that were included in a joint venture. The design manager was Greek, the construction manager was German, and other members of the team were from various locations in the United States and Europe. In addition to the traditional potential for conflict that arises from team members from different cultures, the design manager and construction manager were responsible for protecting the interest of their company in the joint venture.

    The project manager held two alignment or team-building meetings. The first was a two-day meeting held at a local resort and included only the members of the project leadership team. An outside facilitator was hired to facilitate discussion, and the topic of cultural conflict and organizational goal conflict quickly emerged. The team discussed several methods for developing understanding and addressing conflicts that would increase the likelihood of finding mutual agreement.

    The second team-building session was a one-day meeting that included the executive sponsors from the various partners in the joint venture. With the project team aligned, the project manager was able to develop support for the project’s strategy and commitment from the executives of the joint venture. In addition to building processes that would enable the team to address difficult cultural differences, the project manager focused on building trust with each of the team members. The project manager knew that building trust with the team was as critical to the success of the project as the technical project management skills and devoted significant management time to building and maintaining this trust.