ALC English Journal Article June 2013

How To Manage Your Team

QUESTION: “I have several hard-working subordinates that I just don’t get along with very well at all. How can I manage them?”

ANSWER: It’s no surprise that you don’t get along with everyone who works for you. There are over 7 billion people on Earth, and I don’t know anyone who is compatible with all of them. It’s a fact that we human beings tend to like people who are similar to us. But the most successful teams typically include people with diverse knowledge, skills, and experience, and different approaches to doing their work. Would a baseball team with nine extraordinary catchers have any chance of winning? I don’t think so!

“Different” Isn’t Wrong. Difficulties due to work style are so common that many big companies have all employees take a personality assessment, and then attend a class to learn how to work with people with different styles. The self-assessment I prefer is the Enneagram, a personality profile tool that’s easy to learn, remember and use.

Using this tool I’ve discovered that I enjoy interacting with people with Enneagram profiles similar to mine. Predictably, I have the most trouble getting along with people with very different profiles.

Introduction to the Enneagram. You’ll need to study this model much more deeply to be able to use it effectively, however, the nine strategies and their downsides are:

Strategy Focus



Famous Example

1 Perfection High Standards Fear of Mistakes Margaret Thatcher
2 Connection Friendly Possessive Jesus Christ
3 Achievement Energetic Selfish Tiger Woods
4 Uniqueness Creative Moody Michael Jackson
5 Understanding Innovative Emotionally Distant Albert Einstein
6 Security Reliable Anxious Tommy Lee Jones
7 Excitement Optimistic Impulsive Steve Jobs
8 Power Decisive Confrontational Winston Churchill
9 Peacefulness Agreeable Complacent The Dalai Lama

We tend to rely heavily on one or two comfortable, familiar strategies, especially under stress. Here’s an experiment that demonstrates what it feels like to use an unfamiliar strategy. Get a pen and write your name on a piece of paper as if you were signing a credit card receipt. Now put the pen in your other hand and sign your name again. Do you notice any differences? It takes more thought and time, and the results are messier. But with practice we can learn to sign our name easily with either hand. This same concept applies to the Enneagram – we can learn to use all nine strategies through practice, but they will initially feel uncomfortable.

In order to use this tool to manage your challenging people more effectively, first determine your preferred Enneagram strategies. Are the people you don’t get along using different strategies? If so then it’s perfectly natural that you have some difficulty working with them. Recognize and appreciating that their differences strengthen your team, and then manage them like you would any other employee:

  • Adjust as much as you can to your employee’s preferred working style.
  • Build a trusting relationship with them by getting to know them personally.
  • Treat them with dignity and respect in everything that you say and do.
  • Make sure that their work is a good match for their skills and experience.
  • Focus on their strengths, and express your sincere appreciation to them.

And when you have disagreements, make sure that you attack issues, not each other. Healthy conflict is an inevitable part of working in a diverse team. You’re normal!

NOTE: Learn more about the Enneagram here in Japanese  and in English

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