Working With Difficulty Personalities

December 22, 2010

When you oversee multiple teams on multiple projects, or even if you work with a small team on a single project, the odds are fairly decent that at least one of the personalities on that team will clash with your own. So what do you do about it? Well here are some suggestions:

  • Be an active listener. Each of your team members have something valuable to bring to the project table. Listen and respect their ideas, even if you are not their biggest fan personally.
  • Be encouraging. Nothing helps build bridges between people faster than a compliment or word of support. Take time to notice the effort being put out by your team members, thank them for what they do, and encourage them to continue well.
  • Be conscious of personal bias. When you do not like someone because of personality differences, it can become easy to ignore their suggestions or advice simply because you do not want to have to use the ideas of someone you dislike. But that is hugely unwise and can put your project at a disadvantage. Listen to all suggestions equally, and implement the good ones even if they originate from someone you do not get along with.
  • Stay away from gossip. In fact, be reserved on the whole. I’m not advocating an aloof approach to leadership, but be aware of your conversations, and know when to be quiet. Well placed silence gives problem personalities less fuel to work against you.
  • You do not have to be right all the time You, as the project manager, are already the person whose name will be attached to the project’s success. So do not worry about small “wins” along the way. In the words of Ronald Reagan “you can get a lot accomplished if you don’t mind who gets the credit” (that was a paraphrase, but you get the idea.)
  • Do not get mad. Anger at a particular person will cloud your judgment and just generally put you at a disadvantage. Assume that anger at a problem person is not worth the loss it will bring to the overall project, and just avoid it.
  • Know when to call it quits. If you and a particular person are clashing so much that project as a whole is suffering, then maybe it is time to consider walking away. Either you or the person you are having problems with will need to leave. Do not make assumptions either way as to which of you it needs to be. Take a neutral look at which of you brings the most to the project, and suggest that the lesser contributor be dismissed. If you are not in a position to dismiss someone, and you are not in a position to leave yourself, then suck it up. The burden of making it work rests with you as the leadership.

All of these suggestions will not work for every difficult situation, but by following some of these steps, you can go a long way towards avoiding confrontation and achieving a successful project.



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