What Your Resume Doesn’t Show: Your Psychological Role is Equally Important to Your Functional Role

The business world has largely ignored personality when creating teams in part because personality is hard to measure. Instead, businesses focus on a person’s functional role. That role is “based on their formal position and technical skill,” writes Dave Winsborough and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic in the Harvard Business Review. Resumes are full of information about someone’s functional role. However, this misses half of the equation. Winsborough and Chamorro-Premuzic explain that there are “two roles every person plays in a working group.” Yes, the functional role, but also the psychological role which is “based on the kind of person they are.”

Who you think you are matters less than who others think you are, as far as team performance is concerned. Hogan Assessments, which creates personality assessments for over 75% of the Fortune 500 companies, explains:

“Your reputation is the person other people think you are. Your success in the workplace is dependent on your reputation, and this is the part of personality that the best personality tests are based on.”

Your identity comes from the stories you tell yourself daily and is an unreliable indicator of personality. People often oversell or undersell themselves rather than providing a spot-on self-assessment. Reputation, however, is different. “Reputation is a collection of past and present behaviors described by others, and we know it to be the best predictor of future job performance,” explains Hogan Assessments. Your actions and how you take them are what shows your personality to the world. For example, someone who apologizes, but then continues to commit the same infraction, is seen to be disingenuous. It’s their actions that form their reputation, not what they say they will do.

To make matters ever more complex, but graciously expansive, there is no “best” personality. While Winsborough and Chamorro-Premuzic found that teams with higher numbers of “cool-headed, inquisitive, and altruistic people” were more effective, it still is all about balance. It is the right mix of personalities, tailored to each team’s specific needs, that is key to high performance.

As we know from Q theory, too much of a good thing or not enough can cause a team’s downfall. For example, Winsborough and Chamorro-Premuzic researched team performance in relation to five types of personalities: results-oriented, relationship-focused, process-oriented, innovative and pragmatic. A social work organization’s team faltered because they had 86% of members who “were considered good relationship builders” but had no pragmatic or results-oriented members. “The team spent too much time ensuring harmony and cohesion and too little achieving results,” explain the researchers. On a government agency team, 100% of members were considered pragmatic but 0% were innovative and 0% were good relationship builders. “Since no one played the relationship-building role, the team lacked internal cohesion…[and] with only a few playing a results-oriented role (and a leader who wasn’t one of them), the team struggled to drive itself forward.”

The researchers argue that to avoid these pitfalls that arise from imbalanced teams, employers need to assess each individual as a whole person — not just based on talent alone. Once you have a holistic view of a person, then you can create a team that functions as a whole, like the ants who can seamlessly move a Cheerio to the nest, despite obstacles. This part cannot be overstated — a deep understanding of personalities and how they work together is essential to create successful teams. It isn’t about box ticking, it’s about the relational dance, the complex web of social capital. “Who you are affects how you behave and how you interact with other people, so team members’ personalities operate like the different functions of a single organism,” they explain. Each person’s personality can contribute to the whole team’s success — or failure. Remember the 1990s Chicago Bulls? Only when they had the right combination of personalities did they begin to excel. Demanding superstar Jordan couldn’t carry the team himself. He needed Pippen, a more nurturing figure, and rebel-thinker Rodman, to create the right balance.

Our personalities shape the way we interact with others and the world. As a result, our networks look different. In Social Chemistry, King argues there are three types of personalities: expansionists, brokers and conveners. Each of us can exhibit these types at different levels. In the figure below, King notes that each network has the same number of people but they are connected in different ways.

Expansionists have huge networks and can read other people well. These types of people can make instant connections, are confident and generous. However, “they often have trouble maintaining social ties and leveraging them to create value for themselves or others.” Brokers bring together people from disconnected groups. As we know from Q theory, this diverse mix is a key ingredient for innovation. These personalities tend to be chameleon-like: “they intuitively know when it’s time to keep quiet to match the formality of a meeting or laugh a little louder,” explains King. Brokers are rare because most folks are clustered in their tight knit cliques. Like conveners. Conveners’ friends are likely to be friends with each other. They are good listeners and their networks have high levels of trust. However, their cliques can become echo chambers and can lack creativity

Each personality type brings necessary skills and value to the table. When you combine these personalities into a balanced team, each person’s strengths help balance the others’ weaknesses. King explains:

“There is no one best or right network. Based on my analysis of close to a thousand individuals’ networks, I’ve found that one out of three people don’t have a clearly defined style. An additional 20 to 25 percent have a mixed style — they are simultaneously brokers and expansionists, conveners and expansionists, and so forth.”

People are complex and defy strict categories. Thank goodness. These types of personality delineations aren’t aiming to box individuals in, rather they are an invitation to become more aware. When you deepen your awareness of your own personality facets, you can become aware of your strengths and also your gravitation toward certain pitfalls. The power of personality isn’t a mandate to change who you are, it’s rather an invitation to discover how you work best. As a leader or fellow team member, it’s an invitation to look at your fellow co-workers as whole people. People who have personalities as well as talents. The more you can learn about personalities and how they work — and don’t work — together, the stronger your teams will be. Certain personality types suit specific roles. It’s more efficient and kind to redirect a river’s flow than to demand it be a lake.

Thought Leaders in the field of Inclusive Diversity