Enhancing Executive Team Performance by Improving Team Dynamics: Understanding Diverse Personality Type Perspectives

In the dynamic world of business, one fundamental principle stands out: Team dynamics impact team performance.

We see it across sectors and industries among organizations playing in very different sandboxes.

Look at the Ford Motor Company’s gripping comeback story. During the late 2000s, the car icon of Motor City was confronted with dire financial struggles and plagued by a culture of internal competition among its executive team. Sensing the urgency of change, Alan Mulally, the newly appointed CEO, spearheaded a transformative approach known as “Team Ford.” This revolutionary strategy fostered an environment characterized by open communication, trust, and collaboration. Suddenly, once siloed executives began sharing information transparently, pooling their collective strengths to address challenges, and making decisions as a cohesive unit. Mulally’s unwavering commitment to nurturing a culture of trust and unity played a pivotal role in Ford’s successful turnaround, leading to remarkable improvements in performance and profitability.

Or consider the corner coffee shop where you get your daily jolt of caffeine. In 2008, Starbucks faced dwindling sales and an ailing business. Stepping back into the role of CEO after time away, Howard Schultz embarked on a mission to rebuild relationships and instill trust within the executive team. Schultz employed various measures, including listening sessions, to encourage open dialogue and foster an environment of constructive feedback. By nurturing a culture centered on trust, collaboration, and innovation, the Starbucks leadership team was able to orchestrate a remarkable reversal of fortune. Their collective efforts breathed new life into the company’s performance, revitalized the brand, and ultimately won back the loyalty of customers.

Or consider Best Buy, the retail giant that faced an existential threat in online competition throughout 2012. Recognizing the urgency of the situation and how quickly the media landscape was changing, Hubert Joly, the newly appointed CEO, swiftly grasped the importance of forging strong relationships and establishing trust among the executive team. Joly implemented a leadership model that placed a premium on collaboration, cross-functional teamwork, and employee engagement. Open lines of communication were encouraged, and decision-making became a collective endeavor. This transformative shift in teamwork and trust within the executive ranks played a pivotal role in Best Buy’s successful turnaround, resulting in significant improvements in financial performance and a stronger market position.

Through their unwavering commitment to cultivating strong executive team dynamics, these organizations set themselves on a path towards exceptional performance, igniting a ripple effect that cascaded throughout their entire enterprises.

Let’s take a closer look at personality types and the role diversity of personality type plays on team dynamics and performance.

The Power of Diverse Perspectives

The value of diversity is well-known in the business world, as it brings forth a wealth of ideas that may otherwise go unnoticed. One aspect of diversity that often goes overlooked is the influence of personality types, as measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment. Understanding these types can shed light on individuals’ natural preferences, including how they process information, make decisions, and organize their external world.

The MBTI is made up of 4 pairs of opposites which make up 16 different personality types:

  • Introverted (I) or Extroverted (E)

  • Sensing (S) or Intuitive (N)

  • Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)

  • Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)

My own personal MBTI type is INFP, for example – Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Preserving.

Of course, we are all unique, but our MBTI type can shed a lot of light on our natural preferences, where we focus and get energy, how we take in information, how we make decisions, and how we organize our external world.

Take me for example – I prefer 1 on 1 connections, I don’t naturally enjoy mingling in a crowd of strangers.

I prefer visual information, concepts, ideas over details of data and facts.

I weigh decisions on logic, but in the end make big decisions based on my gut feeling and consider the feelings and opinions of others quite heavily.

And while I’m a big fan of checklists I don’t often use them after I’ve devised them. I usually prefer my plans and schedule to be fluid and open ended.

You might be able to see right away how we might interact at work, particularly if you have opposite preferences such as an ESTJ type. We might disagree about where to make budget cuts or what information we need to make that decision. The middle pairs (S/N and T/F) are particularly impactful for that reason. They amount to opposite preferences in terms of what kind of information is preferred and how that information is used in making decisions.

Sensing (S) types will usually be grounded in the present reality, data, facts, details.

The Intuitive (N) types will be more focused on the abstract, concepts, the possibilities, and the future.

You can see how both perspectives are valuable and necessary and how different they are as well.

Now that the S/N’s have the information they need (assuming we even got that far!) we move to the T/F pairing to make decisions. Thinking (T) types will prefer logic, objectivity. They will be looking to fix what is wrong. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” was probably first coined by a (T) type. The Feeling (F) types are more often making decisions based on their values, doing “the right thing”, more focused on the human impact on others. Now you can really see how SJ’s and NF’s will be coming to the table from very different perspectives.

Just understanding this can greatly improve a team’s dynamic and performance, but working together to appreciate and incorporate all the various perspectives is where you can really move improve team’s performance significantly. The opportunity for performance improvement is further magnified when you consider the Introverts (I) and Extroverts (E).

Most of us are familiar with this, the first of the four MBTI pairings. Introverts (I) will often leave a contentious meeting saying “I wish I said….”. On the other hand, the Extroverts(E) often leave the same meeting saying “I wish I didn’t say….”. In many instances, the perspectives of introverts are not heard because they go unsaid. On the other hand, introverts often need to absorb information and “sleep on it” or consider it in their own time and space. Conversely, extroverts often think out loud. The result is one group is much more vocal than the other.

Adding to the dilemma, a common misconception is that the introverts who didn’t speak up have nothing to say or they agree. However, this is often not the case. The statistical fact is that most executive teams are dominated by ST types, and the Extroverts are often dominating the dialog. Therefore, we are getting a strong bias of EST thinking.

ST thinking is important, and valuable, but even better is balanced perspectives that include NF thinking. Think of the example of budget cuts. I’m not suggesting that Introverted senior executives are too shy to speak up. I was certainly not shy about my opinions when I was an executive, but the process of collaboration, thinking things through, discussing, and declining are so different for Is and Es that it can create challenges.

Statistically speaking, the Fs are the minority on executive teams. Because their views are often about values, considering the impact on others, and feelings, they can be discounted as soft, or touchy feely. But this would be a mistake. Imagine an organization that makes all decisions by the numbers. Maybe you are even working in one yourself. It might just be a case of ST’s running unchecked!

Every MBTI type has a “shadow” side. These are challenges or downsides when a team over indexes on any particular personality type. A team that does not do a good job of looping in non-dominant personality types will be losing out on these valuable perspectives.

Adding to the challenge, we are all convinced our MBTI type is “the best”. I know I am quite proud of my preference type – INFP. I bet you are proud of your own distinct personality as well. If you are questioning the value of your MBTI type, it might be because you are surrounded by opposite types which sometimes causes you to doubt yours. There is no ‘should be’ type or preferred type. The fact that ST’s dominate executive teams only means this bias has been self-perpetuated. Every type is valuable, especially if you are in the minority – this means your perspective is especially important.

Understanding these diverse perspectives is essential. If you find your team over-indexing on any single set of traits or begin to feel like you agree with everyone in the room, it may be time for a shake-up of the team dynamics. By appreciating and incorporating all these various viewpoints, a team can achieve better outcomes and foster an environment that encourages collaboration, creativity, and innovation.

The Challenges of non-Diverse Personality Types

The most common hurdle that I see in team dynamics related to personality type is the assumption that everyone thinks and approaches situations similarly. Or worse, the assumption that your particular perspective and type is the “best” one. This assumption often leads to important perspectives being lost or unappreciated. This is especially problematic on teams where similar personality types dominate in numbers and influence. To maximize team performance, the first step to not only understand but also appreciate these differences.

Every MBTI type has a unique set of strengths, and there is no “preferred” type. Unfortunately, due to the statistical dominance of certain types, such as ST types, their perspectives can overshadow those of others. For example, feeling (F) types, who focus on values and human impact, may be discounted as “soft” or “touchy-feely.” This dismissal undermines the potential contributions and narrows the perspective of thought thus limiting the decision-making process to fewer and less creative options.

Ultimately, executive teams that prioritize and leverage the strengths of diverse personality types cultivate an environment of collaboration, respect, and high performance. By embracing the unique qualities and perspectives that we all bring to the table, organizations can unlock the full potential of their executive teams and drive sustainable success.