One of the most important aspects of being an IT Service Desk Manager is understanding the personalities of your team members. If you don’t know what makes them tick, what motivates them, or what’s important to them, then how can you effectively manage them?
There’s definitely no “one size fits all” approach to people management, so this is not just something that’s applicable to the management of service desk agents. What works for one individual won’t necessarily work for another, instead you need to understand your team members and be flexible in your management style in order to get the best out of each agent.
The reality is that you’re never going to have a service desk team where each individual is the same as the next. But nor would you want one – imagine how dull that would be! One of the joys of heading up an IT service desk is working with, and managing, lots of different kinds of people.
In this article, I offer three tips for managing multiple different personalities effectively for a happy, motivated, and engaged working environment.
1. Understand Personality Types
To begin managing personalities, you need to understand the different personality types. While there are too many personality types to explore in this post we can look at the major aspects of personality as detailed in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
This self-management technique was developed to help us makes sense of who we are, and how we interact with others and the outside world, in an easy to understand way. It’s based on the explanations of psychological types by Carl Jung.
Let’s take a look at the main personality-type factors and what they mean:
- Introverts vs. Extroverts. Everyone has probably heard the terms introvert and extrovert. This aspect of personality focuses on whether an individual is more energised by the external world or their own internal world. Generally, introverts work best independently, and extraverts are drawn to working in groups. And introverts find their energy during isolation. This isn’t to say that introverts don’t like being with people; on the contrary, they can get a lot from working as team, but it can drain them and they need to recharge by being alone. Whereas, extroverts are energized by others – we can’t assume that an extroverted person will not work well by themselves, but they come to life within a group.
- Sensing vs. Intuition. This area of personality focuses on whether an individual uses their sensory or intuitive information. In short, sensing personalities thrive on facts and evidence, they look to past experience and want detailed information. Whereas those with the intuition personality trait enjoy new challenges, using their imagination and following their inspiration. They’re happy with more of an overview of information and they often welcome change.
- Thinking vs. Feeling. Thinkers are concise, look into pros and cons, and like to have the facts. They’re more critical than praising and it’s important to them to be right. They also don’t tend to worry about how others see them. They don’t enjoy personal reasons when a decision is being justified – instead they need logical, factual information. Feelers, on the other hand, would rather get along with people. They avoid conflict, they enjoy teamwork, and they judge people’s values and needs in order to make a decision. Feelers need to feel appreciated and like cooperation and understanding. They may be uncomfortable being challenged and dislike impersonal communications.
- Judging vs. Perceiving. The judging personality types prefer to make plans, having structure and schedules. They enjoy working on a task until completion and look into results and achievements. They are happy working to deadlines and like to communicate progress. Perceiving personality types are more spontaneous and they adapt quickly to change. They’re more easily distracted and often start tasks without finishing them. They look into opportunities rather than results. It can be more difficult for someone with a perceiving preference to complete a task before starting something new. They prefer flexibility and options.
Each of us has a bias for each of these four personality-type factors. For instance, ESTJ – extraversion (E), sensing (S), thinking (T), judgment (J) – is one of the 16 possible personality types.
Working out which aspects of personality your agents fall under will help you understand how they view the world and how they like to be treated – this can be done using simple personality assessments. This in turn will allow you to manage them in a way that they will respond to in a positive manner.
2. Build Relationships
Get to know your people – which tasks motivate each of them and which make them want to run for the hills? When you know the answers to these questions you can better direct tasks that suit the individual. For instance, when you have someone who likes to work alone, assign them documentation to complete. When someone thrives in team tasks, then get them involved in researching solutions with another team player.
Observe how your staff behave in both official and unofficial meetings. For the former, you should hold regular team meetings to discuss how the service desk is performing, how your staff are feeling, and what’s coming up over the next few weeks.
Where possible, have offsite gettogethers too to encourage informal team bonding. During these events notice who naturally leads the group, who stays quiet, who triggers debates, who mediates when necessary, etc. Watching people’s behavior when they’re unaware can be a great way to get to know a person’s true personality.
3. Be Human
The absolute best approach you can take to be an effective manager of personalities is to just be human. When someone does a good job, tell them. When someone needs you, be there for them. When there’s a disagreement, put yourself in your employees’ shoes and figure out why – and respect their opinion.
Encourage open and honest conversations, talk about personalities with your staff – the best way to find out about a person is to ask them. And, regardless of personality type, people connect with people. Create a happy, motivated workforce by showing your human side and connecting on a personal level with your team.
Combining These 3 Tips
To manage multiple personalities well, learn about the different personality types in detail. Observe your employees and build relationships with them to understand what they like and what they are motivated by.
Be flexible and manage each individual according to who they are. And understand your own personality type too and recognize that, when you’re managing someone starkly different to yourself, you’ll need to engage on their level.
For instance, when you know someone has the feeler trait, tell them that you appreciate them. When you discover an extrovert, give them a working environment they can thrive in. When an agent displays the intuition trait, use them to help you manage changes and talk about opportunities.
When you start to manage individuals, rather than the team, you should notice productivity levels rise and find yourself dealing with a happier, more motivated group of people.
She is a keen writer with a background in IT Service Desk Management, process improvement and system administration.