Maximizing Team Potential

The logo for the Science of Personality podcast, which covers maximizing team potential in episode 55.

Corporate team building done right can make productivity skyrocket. Maximizing team potential starts with understanding how personality influences our behavior at work.

Recently on The Science of Personality, cohosts Ryne Sherman, PhD, chief science officer, and Blake Loepp, PR manager, spoke with Jennifer Lowe, MA, director of professional services at Hogan, about how to build a successful team and maximize team potential.

High-performing teams play a critical role in overall organizational performance. Personality sits at the core of team success.

Let’s dive into what makes corporate teams successful, how to build trust in a team, how personality influences teams, and more.

Characteristics of Successful Teams

Successful teams—the high-performing ones full of camaraderie—have these foundational qualities in common:

  • a high level of trust
  • transparent communication
  • clear goals
  • a focus on psychological safety

Members of effective teams trust each other and communicate well with each other. “When I get in the room with many leadership teams, I pretty immediately know how the session is going to go,” Jennifer said. The level of team trust is apparent in team members’ interactions. To fulfill team potential, team members need alignment on what matters and clarity about what the objectives are.

In successful teams, team members can offer constructive criticism about an idea without worrying that they’re putting their careers at risk. This characteristic of successful teams is part candid communication and part psychological safety.

It all circles back to trust. “We’re a team together and a team apart,” Jennifer said. “We can support the vision and mission of both the team and the broader organization.”

Challenges to Fulfilling Team Potential

Understanding team challenges is important for fulfilling team potential. According to Jennifer, teams that struggle often have a lack of clarity about the mission. Nothing derails a team faster than mismatched objectives. This could be caused by individuals having different objectives or by team objectives that have increased or changed.

Another common team challenge is when the team acts with too much aspiration and sets unreachable goals. A highly innovative or ambitious team can aim for big results at the risk of overlooking the tactical details of their ideas or failing to communicate their vision to others. Overambitious teams benefit from pragmatic members who will ensure the team’s ideas are actionable.

Teams get derailed when they fail to acknowledge the natural evolution or dissolution of a team. For instance, a team might meet on Tuesdays at 3:00 p.m. because they always have. However, they may not be the right task force to accomplish a new objective—and nobody wants to be the person to say so.

“It’s so interesting how powerful something like auditing the communications of the team and action planning can be,” Jennifer added.

How Personality Influences Team Performance

The Hogan personality tests measure reputation: how we communicate with others, how we make decisions, our sense of urgency, and much more. “When we leverage a personality assessment within teams, it tells us collectively how the team shows up, the way they communicate, and what they’re known for within their organization,” Jennifer said. 

A reputational awareness exercise can help team members understand how they are seen by other business units. It also allows the team to build trust and define their operating norms, overall trends, and themes within the team. Team development reveals individual strengths and potential performance challenges, as well as how those impact team performance.

Personality can also influence division of labor within a team. Teams maximize performance when all members capitalize on their strengths to support the whole. Personality data allows team members to unpack how each other operates and how they will engage day to day.

“Understanding how personality can impact team performance helps people understand each other better,” Jennifer said.

Best Practices for Team Development

Every team development initiative requires a customized approach based on team dynamics. When an organization asks Hogan for help maximizing team potential, the Hogan team begins with discovery. Who’s on the team, and what are the goals of team development? Are there new team members, or is there a new team leader? Is the goal to encourage team connection, or is it to refine team strategy?

Before the team session, individual team members should understand their personal strengths, challenges, and values. Well-validated personality tests are useful to communicate this information objectively. This can help set the stage for team development.

“Maximizing team potential starts with individual self-awareness,” Jennifer said. “We want to know what a successful outcome looks like—what the team is trying to achieve—but we also want the individuals within the team to focus on self-awareness.”

Effective team development sessions end with action planning. Understanding how individual strengths fit within the team culture won’t cause any change unless the team commits to actions that drive them toward higher performance.

Team Building Tips for Leaders

If you’re building a team from scratch, start with selecting the right members for the team. A strong selection process is one that is based on data-driven talent insights and behavioral characteristics that will best support the team’s key goals.

Another point to consider when building a brand-new team is whether it’s needed at all. A team is not a solution to every problem, so be sure you are clear on why the team is necessary and what its objectives are. Ask whether you are building a team for the right reasons.

If you, the leader, are the new element in the team, don’t underestimate the impact of your predecessor and yourself on the team’s culture. Culture is set by the values of leaders, so a new leader changes the dynamic of the team even more than new team members do.

If you fear your team is dysfunctional, identify likely causes for derailment. Jennifer explained, “If a team is operating in derailer mode, it may be that they have change fatigue, have reorganized too many times, or are uncertain about objectives.” To improve performance, go back to the basics: the team’s objective, its communication, its culture, and individual self-awareness.

“Teams that make the biggest improvements towards their full potential make these changes part of their day-to-day interactions within the team,” Jennifer said.

Listen to this conversation in full on episode 55 of The Science of Personality. Never miss an episode by following us anywhere you get podcasts. Cheers, everybody!