The practical guide to team dynamics

Getting your team to work together to achieve goals is key to your success as a manager. Master team dynamics by downloading our e-book.

Team dynamics and talent optimization

Talent optimization is a discipline leaders can follow to align their company’s business strategy and their talent strategy for optimal results. 

As a manager, getting your team to work together cohesively is key to achieving your business goals.

Get team dynamics right, and you’ll be crushing your goals.

Get it wrong, and you’ll end up with frustrated and disengaged employees who miss the mark.

A key component of talent optimization is understanding team dynamics and predicting how they’ll change with the addition of a new team member.

In this guide, we’ll be breaking down how you can use science to do just that.

Understand your team dynamics.

We’ve all been part of a team that’s magic. Everyone works well together, colleagues are friends, and projects move along quickly without much fanfare.

And then there are the teams that struggle to get things done. For one reason or another, employees have interpersonal conflict, the team has a hard time committing to decisions, and business results suffer.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to create that magical team? 

With science there is.

Behind our actions are core behavioral drives that are innate to who we are. Behind those core drives are needs that motivate us.

For each of us, those needs and drives are different. But they motivate and spur our behaviors nonetheless.

The PI Behavioral Assessment™ is an untimed, free-choice, stimulus-response tool that measures a person’s motivating drives and needs, so we can better understand their workplace behavior. 

The software generates reports that gives managers insight into what motivates and drives their employees so they can manage more effectively and navigate team dynamics more easily. It also generates placards that help individual contributors better understand their colleagues, so they can work together more cohesively.

For example, you might have an employee that seems resistant to change. If the rest of your team is more proactive and easygoing about implementing change, this behavior can become a point of frustration. 

But this change-resistant employee can actually be a valuable member of your team. Here’s why: Employees who are resistant to change aren’t bad employees. They often just have a higher degree of patience (we define patience as the need to have consistency and stability in one’s environment). It’s not that they don’t value change; they just don’t want to change for the sake of changing. For these employees, the most important question you can answer for them is “Why are you making this change?” Equipped with solid reasoning, these employees feel comfortable moving forward with change. 

Instead of moving forward at lightning speed, these employees are more likely to think things through before making a decision—a behavior that can be highly useful to your team and organization.

Understanding the four core drives (dominance, extraversion, patience, and formality) is key to understanding your existing team dynamics. If your team members have opposite drives, conflict can arise. We’re all wired differently, so having different drives is normal. But without understanding these differences, trying to get your employees to work well together will be like trying to make two positive charges stick—it just won’t work.

Manage your team dynamics.

Equipped with an understanding of how each of your employees is wired, you can now better manage your team dynamics.

Let’s say you have a number of individuals who are self-confident and venturesome. That can be great for organizations that require more innovation, self-leadership, and an orientation toward action, such as startups or small businesses. However, a team composed of people with these personality traits can naturally create some tension or discord. If everyone is confident in their decisions and willing to act on them, what happens when decisions need to be made as a group? As a manager, you’ll need to help your team stretch to be collaborative decision makers at times.

As you grow, you may also need to include other personalities on the team to complement existing behavioral tendencies. For example, if your team is very action-oriented, you might want to hire a team member who is more precision-oriented, who slows down to review the facts and figures before making a decision. 

As a leader, knowing and understanding the behavioral drives and tendencies of your team members will help you predict potential pitfalls in the team dynamic.

It will also help you to hold employees accountable. Motivating your team members according to their behavioral drives increases the likelihood that they’ll be accountable to the assigned work. 

For example, if you have a team member who is highly extraverted, what motivates them is working with others and opportunities to influence others. When managing this team member, you’ll want to keep this in mind, and tie back their assignments to how they impact the team. 

In the PI software, employees can download Relationship Guides, which helps them understand the dynamic between their own behavioral drives and a colleague’s behavioral drives. This easy-to-access report helps solve communication challenges and drive productive conversations by providing insight into combined strengths and areas where two individuals might experience conflict.

Managers can also download a Management Strategy Guide, which offers custom advice on how to accommodate the preference of each of your direct reports.

Predict how your team dynamics will change.

In any growing business, adding an additional team member is inevitable. This addition creates a new team dynamic with changes to how work assignments are divided, how processes unfold, how the team communicates, and how decisions are made.

Understanding how these dynamics will change with a new hire is critical to your team’s success. Unfortunately, most managers bring on a new team member and hope for the best. The good news is you can use science—such as those behavioral assessments we talked about—to understand how the addition of a new team member will impact your current team dynamic.

For example, let’s say you’re running a sales team. Most salespeople are wired to be extraverted and move at a quick pace. These behavioral traits are naturally suited to a sales position. However, if you’re hiring for a sales operations position (someone who provides both strategic and tactical support to a sales team), you may be looking for someone who’s more process-oriented. This behavior may be a perfect fit for the sales operations role, but a behavioral mismatch to your existing team of extraverted sales reps. 

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hire the process-oriented candidate. Teams need diversity of thought, and job performance depends on finding the right fit for the role—not just the team. But it’s important to consider how you’ll introduce this new member of the team and how you will, as a manager, navigate and oversee the new team dynamic.

When introducing a new team member, set aside some time to help them discuss how they fit into the current team dynamic. Use a tool like PI’s Team Work Styles to show them how they operate differently than their teammates, and help them understand how they may need to stretch in some areas. For example, if your team is very action-oriented and your new hire is very process-oriented, they may need to be willing to move a little faster to accommodate the team.

Likewise, connect with your team about your new hire’s behavioral pattern and how it differs from the team’s current dynamic. Explain the rationale behind your new hire: “As a team, we’re very action-oriented, which is great. We’re getting things done. This new hire is very process-oriented. In order for us to grow, we need to establish processes for how we do things. This will help us to move more quickly in the long run. I know that’s different from how we currently operate, so let’s be mindful and stretch ourselves to accommodate this change to our team.”

Make an informed decision.

Diversity of thought matters. So does hiring the right fit for the role. But ultimately, when you’re looking at bringing on a new hire, it’s important to look at what you need to succeed as a whole.

Think about your team’s structure and goals. What kind of person would succeed in that environment? If you need someone who’s highly risk tolerant so you can move forward quickly and innovate, hiring a person who’s naturally wired to mitigate risk will be at odds with your business strategy. 

As you review potential candidates, consider how each person might enhance—or disrupt—the team’s work. If a candidate can mesh with the current team and add value by balancing out existing weaknesses, hire them. But if they’ll rock the boat or negatively impact the productivity of your team, it’s worth looking for someone else. 

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