Spokane Journal of Business

Knowing team members can improve engagement

Valuing who workers are maximizes their potential

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Most leaders seek to build and manage strong, highly functioning teams.

One of the most effective strategies to ensure that you are able to reap the benefits of employing more fully engaged employees is to work actively and consistently to understand who your team members really are.

Getting to know them as individuals will be incredibly valuable but will take time. You can begin by understanding some behavioral basics—communication styles, motivation, as well as traits that can often be attributed to generational differences.

You also want to work to understand that the individuals that make up your teams possess varying perspectives based on culture, background, life experiences, as well as varying strengths and challenges. The more information you have, the better equipped you are to lead them. This includes matching their skills with specific roles within the workplace, leading them to greater fulfillment and higher engagement.

Below are just a few of the many benefits of getting to know your team members that will lead them to that greater sense of fulfillment and those higher levels of engagement.

If you know who your team members are, you can tailor your coaching style to be more effective. Ideally, you are offering a more individualized approach to each team member.

Such an approach will provide you with more frequent occasions to gather important information, receive regular feedback, and provide you with opportunities for reinforcement.

Knowing your team members will allow you to be able to tell sooner rather than later if a team member is happy and a good fit. Knowing that will prevent resentments from building up and creating toxicity in your work environment. It may even alert you to any possible safety concerns.

Being plugged into who your team members are also will give you the opportunity to coach and work to help them develop their careers more successfully by working within their strengths. When you know your team members, you are able to be proactive in moving them around or possibly out.

Beyond one-to-one engagement, self and peer evaluations, and team building activities, there are personality profiles and other assessment tools available that can help you gain the insight you need to understand fully the strengths and challenges of your team members.

There are several assessment tools available to assist you in getting to know your team.

The Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator is probably the personality assessment you’re most familiar with. This quiz is based on the psychology of Carl Jung, and it divides everyone into 16 different personality types based on how they perceive and judge the world around them.

“Perception involves all the ways of becoming aware of things, people, happenings, or ideas. Judgment involves all the ways of coming to conclusions about what has been perceived,” Myers-Briggs explains on its website. “If people differ systematically in what they perceive and in how they reach conclusions, then it is only reasonable for them to differ correspondingly in their interests, reactions, values, motivations, and skills.”

The Enneagram test divides everyone into nine personality types, and it’s based on the notion that your type emerges in early childhood, though the belief is that everyone is born with a dominant type.

“By the time children are 4 or 5 years old, their consciousness has developed sufficiently to have a separate sense of self,” the Enneagram Institute explains on its website. “Although their identity is still very fluid, at this age children begin to establish themselves and find ways of fitting into the world on their own.”

The Enneagram’s nine types are: the reformer, the helper, the individualist, the achiever, the investigator, the loyalist, the enthusiast, the challenger, and the peacemaker.

StrengthsFinder 2.0 is another one that’s used a lot at work because it’s designed to reveal participants’ talents so you can set yourself up for success. In its most basic form, this test highlights your strengths at work, which can empower you to pursue your passions and stop beating yourself up because you’re not good at putting things into spreadsheets.

The DiSC personality test is designed to help employers better understand their employees. It evaluates behavior based on the ideas of William Martson and Walter Clark by focusing on the traits of dominance, inducement, submission, and compliance.

By giving each employee a common understanding of different personality traits, the test helps employees work more productively, communicate with others, and cooperate as a team.

Some companies rely on it to hire staff, while others use it to gauge an employee’s suitability for a job.

Kolbe measures your instinctive way of doing things and the result is called your method of operation. This assessment measures a person’s conative strengths. It gives you greater understanding of your own human nature and allows you to begin the process of maximizing potential—both personally and professionally.

Tools like those will provide you with a great deal of information about your team members. You will want to research thoroughly any assessment tool to discover if it will provide you with what you believe is most important for you to learn about your team.

Keep in mind that a single assessment tool isn’t the be-all and end-all of getting to know your team. They aren’t suggested as a substitute for simply paying attention and being present. Ideally, participation in an assessment not only allows leaders to learn more about their team members, uncover valuable information, and begin a conversation, but also allows team members to learn about themselves and promote increased self-awareness. Another benefit is that it promotes understanding among team members.

Assessments, like any instrument, must be used properly. Be sure that you use your human resources department to vet your selection fully and learn how to deliver the assessment appropriately.

It probably should go without saying that strategies for getting to know your team are intended to be used within professional boundaries.

Many leaders and coaches worry about blurring those lines. Knowing who your team members are and investing time to understand their strengths and challenges doesn’t mean you have to become friends. It simply means you are investing in useful resources, actively paying attention and establishing yourself as an engaged, accessible leader. In the workplace, most team members are looking for a role model and a strong leader more than another pal to “hang out” with.

Getting to know team members is an investment of time and resources. But when you invest in these resources, it ultimately will make your job as a coach and a leader easier. If you know them, you will know how best to engage them and keep them engaged. Fully engaged team members are more productive, satisfied, and are much more likely to be long-term employees.


  • René Johnston

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