Project Management or People Management? Managing Different Personality Types

An overhead shot of a group of workers sitting around a table and collaborating.

Posted by Ariella Saucier on May 11, 2018

If you’ve been tasked with managing a group of people for anything longer than a day, you’ve probably noticed a fairly striking difference in personalities. After all, people aren’t robots, and though you may want to, you can’t just punch in a cheat code and program them with the perfect personality. So it should go without saying that an important part of project managing is people managing – getting a handle on your team’s personality types and tapping into each individual’s strengths so that they all mesh well together.

Identifying Personality Types

Taking the time to understand your coworkers and team members will give you much better insight into what motivates them, as well as their strengths, weaknesses and working styles. You may be able to explore this through simple observation and a conversation or two with the people around you, but for a deeper and more objective look, personality assessments are a great option. Some common tools and tests for identifying personality types are the DiSC assessment, which we use here at AAC, and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®.

No matter what kind of assessment you use, understanding the traits and different mixes in each person will help you better manage your team and align strengths with the overall project goals. While I want to make it clear that I am not an expert of any kind on personality types, I have noticed a few general “trends”, and ways to bring out the best in each one. These four types are: go-getters, supporting cast, collaborators and deliberators.

Go-Getters

The go-getters are some of your most driven workers. They tend to be determined to push forward and get things done, and they’re always looking for new challenges and the next goal to achieve. This drive often pushes them to be bold, and they can be a good source of new ideas. They will be the engine of your project, and you should use them as such.

Go-getters also tend to be hyper-focused and results-oriented. To connect with them, you’ll need to be a little forward-thinking too, and have the next steps mapped out so they don’t get frustrated or bored. They’re probably not the most patient people on your team, and you might have to prepare for some confrontation (without any hard feelings) to reel them in. But they’re purposeful, and will make sure things keep moving in the right direction.

Supporters

Your supporters are workers that might appear to be opposite of the go-getters. They’re usually a lot more relaxed, though still focused. They aren’t the best multi-taskers, but are really good at helping others and getting things done in a supporting role. You’ll probably find that they don’t do well with shifting priorities, and will perform much better when clear expectations are set.

Supporters tend to thrive in that type of clear-cut environment, especially when shown appreciation for their hard work, so that’s important to remember for this group. They also tend to be really encouraging and patient with others, and they don’t like to offend anyone or upset the status quo. They may need some extra coaxing to try new things or bring forward a bold idea.

Collaborators

For this type of worker, collaborating with others and working collectively in harmony to achieve a goal comes naturally. They tend to be very enthusiastic and optimistic, and are really good at motivating and persuading others because of their positivity. If you need some extra leverage in getting buy-in from your team as a whole, this type of person will probably be able to help.

Because they tend to work really well with others, they value everyone’s opinions and want those opinions to have a chance to be heard. This can sometimes make it hard for them to focus on a clear direction and stay organized, so keep that in mind when working with them. They also tend to fear disapproval (although, don’t we all?), so some extra encouragement to make them feel valued can go a really long way.

Deliberators

Deliberators are some of your most thorough workers. They are cautious and tactful; it shouldn’t surprise you to see them questioning the status quo or wanting more details to verify a decision or plan of action. They have a desire to get work done at a really high quality, but sometimes this can slow down the process, because they would rather have it done right than done quickly.

If you assign a task to this personality type, you can be sure it’ll be checked for absolute accuracy and that all bases will be covered. But you might have to give them an extra push to get them to hit a deadline or make a final decision. They also don’t like to delegate, so if you know you have a person on your team like this, then make sure they’re not drowning under their workload.

Think Outside the Box

Like I said at the start, these four types of workers are just trends that I’ve noticed, and are not meant to serve as any official metric or assessment. It’s also worth noting that people aren’t limited to just one type; although they may have several strong traits from one type, each individual is often a mix of traits drawn from different personality types.

As important as it is to understand people’s personalities, you also want to be wary of labeling them and placing them in a box. People can change, and some react differently in different situations, especially uncomfortable ones. Taking into account how your team responds in different settings, and what their strengths and weaknesses are, you’ll be able to get a much better feel for their personality and how you can bring out the best in each of them as their project manager.

Ariella Saucier, Project Manager at AAC

Ariella Saucier
Project Manager