Effective Team Building and Personality Types

By Monty, Vivienne | Special Libraries, Winter 1994 | Go to article overview

Effective Team Building and Personality Types


Monty, Vivienne, Special Libraries


Special libraries are often managed by a small staff complement. These staff, by necessity, must function as a cohesive team. Effective and functional teams, in turn, must be developed and fostered. Application of personality profiles/tests are frequently used in businesses for team building. Profiles such as the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory or Action Profiling specifically enable library managers to create and encourage a more effective team environment.

Introduction

Contemporary library managers must create and sustain an environment which fosters organizational development. They must also foster an environment which enhances individual and group effectiveness. This is particularly critical in a special library setting where staff complements are often small and the achievement of a smooth team environment is vital for organizational effectiveness. To achieve some of this, staff are often sent at great expense to various workshops and seminars.

All too often, however, seminars and workshops only regurgitate what is already known. More frustratingly, people leave sessions with enthusiasm and promise themselves that they will go straight back to work and start applying the useful ideas they have learned. Unfortunately, everyday pressures and emergencies shortly put an end to their efforts, and participants promise themselves to try out these methods sometime, but not at the present.

Why do most workshops and seminars fail to achieve their aims, especially when, on the whole, they are fairly good sessions? The reasons are quite simple. The techniques which are taught seek to change the way in which people operate. They attempt to overturn natural management styles. They also work with individuals and not with the teams with whom these individuals work. The resulting tools that are provided run contrary to the "real" self and often the team as a whole. How can anyone become committed to such changes? Not surprisingly, library administrators and educators are beginning to ask why training does not work.[1]

A.J. Anderson posed the question, "Do people change their management styles and practices as a result of taking courses and attending workshops?" He considered the work of physiologists (Kretschmer and Sheldon), psychologists (Freud and Jung) and a philosopher (Spranger), all of whom categorized human beings into personality types in one way or another. The 'characterologists' examined by Anderson all concluded that modifications must lie within the boundaries of one's original type or nature.[2] This is a conclusion which rests uneasily with many North American educational and psychological values.

There are a few forms of personal analyses and team building methods that have proved themselves in numerous organizations throughout the world. None of the proven methods seeks to change people, but all work with existing character types. These analyses can be used for two major purposes: to help individuals to make the most of what they have naturally, and to be employed for team effectiveness.

Personality profiles or psychological inventories can make an important contribution to this dual objective. The increased self-awareness which is the result of well-administered inventories or profiles enables individuals to build on strengths and anticipate where difficulties may arise. When members of a work group participate in the exercise, the shared knowledge contributes to team-building.[3]

Psychological inventories and profiles are not tests. A trait is not right or wrong, and an inventory is not a judgment. Nor is a profile a sentence which confines a person to a particular set of responses. Rather, knowledge of personal traits will enable participants to build on strengths and compensate for weaknesses. One can manage a weakness, not by changing one's self, but by using other people's strengths as props, intellectual controls, or systems. An inventory can give confidence in strong areas; it may confirm a dim awareness of a strength which hasn't been used fully. …

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