Setting Clear Expectations

The secret to managing a team effectively is as unique and nuanced as the individuals who make up that team. We all have preferences when it comes to how we work as individuals and as team members. Our individual work styles and preferences stem from our unique personalities, habits, values, motivators, biases, learnings, and experiences.  

A team is made up of a group of individuals united by shared goals and diversified by each individual perspective. Managing a team of individuals starts with acknowledging that all of your team members have different personalities that affect how they prefer to:

  • Communicate

  • Discuss feedback

  • Set targets and goals

  • Be recognized

  • Discuss expectations

  • And more

Miscommunication and conflict can occur when you lack a shared understanding and belief system. Taking the time to learn about each other's personalities and work styles can help to build trust and bridge the gap allowing for better communication and understanding of each other. By clarifying expectations and finding common ground in shared goals and values it can become easier to communicate effectively.

Managing various personality types and workstyles is an ongoing challenge of managing a team. In order to intentionally face that challenge we need to change our perspective of management, we need to develop a unique management strategy to manage a team of individuals. 

Personalities and Work Styles

The term "personality" refers to a person's patterns of thinking, feeling and acting.
(Berkeley HR)

Our work styles are impacted by our personalities and personal preferences. Each person on your team may approach a task, set deadlines, and collaborate with one another differently. For example introvert, extrovert or ambivert personality types often behave very differently in the workplace - their personality type deeply impacts their standard actions and behaviors.

There are a variety of standardized ways to understand someone’s personality or work style, for example:

Individuals also tend to take on different roles on the team. The Belbin Modeldescribes “the 9 major clusters of behavior that characterize individual and collective teamwork.” This is an example of a framework that examines different personalities in team settings.

Getting to Know Your Team Members

As a manager, you can also learn about your individual team members by spending time strategically observing and getting to know them. Consider your assumptions based on observing their behavior, past experiences or performance evaluations:


  • How would you describe their unique personalities?

  • What are their strengths or competencies?

  • How do they interact or communicate with others on the team?

  • What role do they take on the team?

  • How do they respond to success, failure, risk, stress, deadlines, etc?

  • What do they value?

Whether you assess your team members personalities with formal tests or your own observations take your findings to the source. How does each individual describe themselves?  Share your self-awareness about your own personality and work style.

These conversations can be more important than the actual findings. They allow you to open the door to deeper conversations around work styles and build empathy with your team members.

By getting to know your team members and deepening your awareness and understanding of various personality types and behaviors, you can begin to understand what engages and motivates your team to increase productivity. You can also begin to customize your management techniques to communicate and collaborate more effectively.

Habits and Accountability

Personality and past experience also shape our habits. Workplace habits impact our workflow, productivity, and routines. Consider for example how you like to start your mornings, how you take notes during a meeting, or maybe how you procrastinate certain deadlines.

Consider how your habits and preferences impact your motivation or productivity. If you often procrastinate perhaps you prefer to work under the pressure of tight timelines. If you often show up late to meetings maybe you are less motivated by a rigid schedule and more motivated by spontaneous interactions. Can you identify the impact of your habits? 

In the words of Gretchen Rubin “what I do every day matters more than what I do once in a while.

How Your Habits Impact Your Team

Now consider how your habits, rooted in your own style and preferences, may be impacting your team. If you often show up to meetings late but your team members rely on that time to ask you questions, how may that impact their work? If you like to set deadlines to hold people accountable, but they are more motivated by building their own schedule and working more autonomously, how may that impact their productivity?

Open the conversation on habits with your team. Break the walls and together consider the role your habits play in work and how you may be willing to work together to adjust them to build a system that works well for everyone. Get to know your individual team members and ask them about how they generally stay accountable to goals.

Completely catering your management style to each individual may not be feasible or scalable. Managing a team of individuals requires open communication around your varying work styles, habits, and preferences which allow for collaboration and a shared understanding rather than completely individual work relationships. Focus on clarifying priorities and setting deadlines in 1:1’s to help ensure a unified view of expectations.

Meaningful Connections

Managing a team of individuals isn’t only about learning to manage your reports as individuals, it’s also about building meaningful connections by showing empathy and respect for each person’s unique qualities. Meaningful connections help create strong engagement which in turn helps to build a positive team culture.

A meaningful connection does not mean a personal relationship. Not everyone will be comfortable with sharing personally while in the workplace. A meaningful connection is the result of a strong professional relationship - learning how your team members think about trust, their professional relationships, and career goals. Truly caring about the personal professional success and development of each of your team members, coaching them through their tough spots and recognizing them for their wins will help you develop a meaningful connection with your team.  This is especially true when you take the time to learn how they prefer to consider growth and development, coaching, recognition or success.

Meaningful connection and empathy help to develop a shared belief system. When you discuss the purpose and passion of the work or the “why” you can cultivate a shared language behind goals, values, failures, and success. You can deepen your shared understanding of the team's culture, mission, and goals ultimately improving team culture.

When you start with your relationships with your team members, your actions and behaviors set an example for your team members to bridge the gap and find common ground to communicate and get to know each other on a personal level increasing team collaboration. If they can understand each other's intentions and find common ground in shared goals and values they can share more positive communication.

Purpose of Work

Purpose provides a reason to stay excited, motivated and productive. As Paul Millerdputs it “People crave purpose.

Connecting the individual team members targets and goals with the team’s and company’s mission, vision and goals can help your direct reports understand the value, meaning, and impact of their work. Understanding the value, meaning and impact of work, helps each individual see the purpose behind what they come towork every day to do.

The next time you are discussing new projects or expectations consider tying it back to the big picture, the "why". How does this work connect to the company targets?Why is this work important? What will the impact of success in this work mean for the organization? 

When you discuss the purpose and the “why” you can cultivate a shared language behind goals, values, failures, and success. You can deepen your shared understanding of the team's culture, mission, and goals.

At first, perhaps you draw the connection for your team members, but over time they can begin to own that conversation and drive their own motivation with you as their coach.

Impact on How You Manage

Acknowledging that your team members are individuals and understanding how that affects their work style, habits, and routines, can help you better unlock potential and lead each individual team member toward success.

Taking into account your team members as individuals means thinking about and asking your team members about their preferences and recognizing those preferences as unique. Consider how you communicate in 1:1’s and how you communicate expectations, targets and goals.

By learning about individual preferences and personality types, you can figure out what motivates and triggers each of your team members and learn how best to manage for high performance.

Questions to help you get to know your team

Yep - It's a super long email. Save it in a good spot to read when you need guidance on how to manage your team of individuals.

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