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How to: Maximise your people’s potential

Business Life 08-03-2017

Anna Harris explores how personality test assessments can help employers to create winning teams.

As human beings, we’re naturally drawn to certain people – most often those who are to certain people – most often those who are very like ourselves.

People who share a similar background, outlook, interests and sense of humour. And, while this can be the basis of a great friendship, the opposite is true when it comes to building a great business.

Really successful businesses need to be innovative to outsmart the competition. It’s an easy thing to say, but difficult to achieve.

This is because innovation comes out of pushing boundaries, questioning the status quo and clashing ideas.

So, while a business might function really effectively with lots of like-minded individuals on board, it’s highly unlikely to be innovative.


Successful businesses also need to ensure they don’t drift out of kilter. You don’t want your big idea being powered forward by unsustainable quick wins – or held back by too much deliberation.

There needs to be drive, but tempered by consideration of the long-term implications; efficient procedure, complemented by thinking outside the box; insatiably creative ideas, calmed by impeccable attention to detail; learnings from the past, balanced by how to get things done right now and aspiration for the future.


So how do you get the balance right and boost innovation? To create a winning team, you need people who possess a wide range of personality traits.

Well- tested personality assessments – from the complex Myers-Briggs model  to the more accessible Social Style theory – are undoubtedly the best way for managers to assess their people’s personality and thinking styles.

If you can use assessments to encourage managers and teams to make allowances for different individual communication styles, you’ll be off to a flying start. And OK, it may not be rocket science, but it’s not just hokum either; good assessment tools are based on solid social science and many global organisations swear by them.


In simple terms, ‘Social Style’ is the behaviour that an individual exhibits when interacting with others – essentially, whether individuals tend to assert themselves or respond to others; display emotion or maintain composure in group settings.

The Social Style model, originally developed by Dr David W Merrill and Roger Reid, identifies four profiles: Analytical, Driver, Amiable and Expressive (see box). Most people have one dominating profile and a secondary trait.

By combining different Social Style traits, and ensuring that everyone makes an effort to understand and respect their different communication behaviours, you’ll have created a gold blend team.

There should be a Driver to keep the team on task, an Analytical to ensure that the project is done accurately, an Expressive to provide creative thinking, and an Amiable to help smooth over any disagreements.


Personality assessments are extremely useful, however, as sociologist Zuleyka Zevallos, PhD advises in her article Making the Most of Personality and Communication Styles Within Business:

“Don’t let these become a set of fixed labels to pigeonhole people.”. You also don’t want your employees using their defined Social Style as an excuse to get out of doing certain tasks –

“Don’t ask me to look at that spreadsheet – I don’t do details, I’m an Expressive” or

“I’m not taking part in the creative discussion because I’m an Analytical” etc.

Zevallos adds: “Just as good leaders routinely monitor their products, services and profit, they should constantly question the way in which they manage staff. A leader should get into the habit of asking: am I making the most of my team members’ skills and knowledge, or am I harbouring a narrow understanding of their personalities?”

Human beings are complex and getting the best from them in the ever- shifting requirements of the business world will never be straightforward. But, with a bit of Social Styles knowledge under your belt, and a commitment to your most valuable asset, you’ve got a fighting chance of winning.

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