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Trevor E. S. Smith | Team dynamics and you

Published:Sunday | July 7, 2019 | 12:00 AMTrevor E. S. Smith - Contributor

I asked Caribbean Leadership Conference participants if anyone felt that some members of their team were not a good fit.

It was interesting to see how many thought that the composition of their team was not ideal.

In our work with organisations, the importance of team dynamics keeps coming to the fore.

Perhaps the biggest problem in teams is the failure to appreciate the impact of differences in personal preferences.

People come to the team with differences in the level of interaction that they want. Some need to be in constant dialogue while others prefer to communicate only as necessary. The interaction between those who prefer to remain in their corner and those who have a need for interpersonal engagement can produce tension in team dynamics.

Then there are differences in how information is shared. Some people prefer storytelling and love to have a long preamble when they provide information.

Others spend more time repeating and reinforcing what they have said than what they said in the first place.

Then there are those who prefer to communicate in bullet points, as if they are sending a telegraph message.

Differences in behavioural styles are also manifested in the pace at which members prefer to proceed. Some want to operate at a fast pace including quick decision-making. Others prefer to be more moderate in their pace and take their time in coming to decisions. This can be a major source of frustration and conflict.

Behavioural preferences

These basic factors play a much bigger role in influencing team spirit, engagement, and performance than is generally recognised. Behavioural preferences are a key determinant of team cohesiveness which, in turn, impacts productivity and performance.

There is a price that the organisation, team and its members pay when they overlook the importance of behavioural preferences.

The development of high-performing teams is viewed as a key growth and competitive strategy. Consequently, it is critical to ensure that there is a good fit of the competences of the team with the future demands of the work environment.

It is important to avoid having square pegs in round holes. Team selection and role assignment can dictate outcomes.

Many organisations seek to address this issue by screening for technical skills. Can the accounting clerk distinguish between debits and credits, and so on?

Pause for a moment to reflect on this.

If you were recruiting pilots for an airline, would you be concerned to engage a candidate with a demonstrated preference for risk-taking and a history of marching to his own beat?

Well, similarly, roles in teams are best performed with given mindsets. You want playmakers in the hospitality sector to be outgoing and people-oriented. You want medical lab workers to be detail-oriented with a mindset to avoid errors.

Identifying those mindsets is not possible from a review of academic and technical qualifications. That is why behavioural assessments that allow for the presentation of sophisticated team maps and reports are central to the development of high-performing teams.

Conflict. Confrontation.Employee turnover. Rework. Lost time and resources.

Those are issues that arise from differences in how people like to be led. Some people just want to be told the desired outcome and left to figure out how to get it done. Others want detailed information and some degree of hand-holding before feeling comfortable with their assignments.

Leaders who fail to appreciate these important distinctions are doomed to get less-than-ideal results.

The same thing applies to giving feedback. It is easy to lose the support of team members by errors in how instructions and feedback are given.


Leaders need to appreciate differences in behavioural preferences. Working with team maps and team data is one way in which some organisations are gaining a competitive advantage.

Leading dominant, difficult and diverse personalities is challenging. It is widely acknowledged that people don’t leave their jobs, they leave their supervisors. Informed leadership is a requirement for employee engagement, especially in the context of the increased percentage of millennials in the workforce and their different needs.

We transfer the required skills to leaders in our 3-D Leader: Leading Dominant, Difficult and Diverse Personalities certification programme.

For more information, send an email to

- Trevor E. S. Smith of Success with People Academy interpersonal relations and performance-enhancement specialists. Providing human capacity development and technology-driven solutions. Email: