Colleagues arguing at workplace

Collaboration: A Story of Two Personalities

All organizations need teams to collaborate. So what makes for effective collaboration? And why does it sometimes go sideways despite everyone’s best efforts? 

What is Collaboration?

Collaboration requires trust, authenticity, a cooperative, rather than a competitive spirit, and effective communication. 

Understanding the specific ways to connect with those people you want to influence in a collaborative way is invaluable to leadership and teamwork. There are actually very targeted ways of influencing people once you know their Personality Adaptation.

Personality Adaptations

Personality Adaptations is a model that describes the best ways people contribute in a team, and also the predictable route of their downfall. The model describes how (and why) they move to compete, or withdraw, or set up struggles that simply do not contribute to people wanting to work with them, or to making the best decision. 

These strategies for blocking collaboration are seen every day boardrooms and with couples, or children in the big and small negotiations of life. And, the strategies are decided a long time ago from childhood.

We adapted to our environment back then which caused our early decisions about how to get what we want – to collaborate we hope but too often we learned to give up, to fight, to struggle, to compete.  There are the styles we might revert to under stress in response to situations at work.  

There are two adaptive styles that have different approaches to problem-solving and under stress, will interfere in collaboration.  

Charming Manipulators

Charming Manipulators are charming and people are drawn to them. They are excellent in sales and are great promoters. Their difficulty is they assume others are competing with them. They conclude if they don’t create a winning strategy, they are losers. Often not seeing when a collaborative approach is what is needed!

They assume they can’t get what they want directly, so they will ‘go around the ‘mulberry bush’ and hope the other gets the hint and offers up what they want. They are loath to risk getting shut down.

Early in life, the parents of a Charming Manipulator tended to anticipate every need of the child. As a result, Charming Manipulators never had an opportunity to learn how to express a need, and experience being responded to. The early decision is that they are on their own, and nobody will be there for them. 

So how does this show up in an organization?

This personality style is common in the sales department, and in leadership roles. They are attracted to leadership and regretfully, often act as if everything is all about them!  They will attempt to charm others to get what they want or need and will take credit that is not theirs to take. 

People may feel used or manipulated at the end of interacting with a Charming Manipulator.  Charming manipulators under stress want to just get on with it as a way to manage their stress.  Action is better than no action, and thinking takes too much time in deliberations. 

Brilliant Skeptics

Brilliant Skeptics are brilliant! They are intelligent, detail-oriented and organized. Typically they will do well in accounting and operations. They anticipate problems and plan solutions ahead of time. Their strength is bringing clarity to a situation. However, they will believe their own perception of reality without checking out if these assumptions are true.

They can be rigid and overly focused and demanding of excellence. Under stress, this translates into a relentless drive for perfection and harshness to those who don’t meet the mark.

Brilliant Skeptics grew up in inconsistent environments. Their parents either weren’t aligned on parenting or were too stressed to respond consistently or predictably. As a result, Brilliant Skeptics are wary and watchful.

They pay careful attention to their environment to avoid being caught off guard. They are hypersensitive to their environment and are on the lookout for inconsistencies. At a party, they skirt the edges and stay close to the door. 

Collaboration and These Adaptations

When these two personalities meet in the workplace they have to work hard to collaborate. The Charming one doesn’t trust the Brilliant one. The Brilliant one’s sharp and detailed thinking can overwhelm the Charming one, who wants to just get ‘it’ done.

The task and outcome seem obvious to the Charming one. The Brilliant one feels unsafe with the Charming one’s ‘just-do-it’ attitude, thinking there hasn’t been enough careful deliberations, or assessment of risks to take action. 

Both adaptive styles will feel frustrated or unsafe. Communication will break down and collaborative efforts will fail. Trust in each other needs to be established. Striking a balance between the needs of the Brilliant one to conduct due process, and the Charming one’s need to move a project forward is needed for this collaborative effort to flourish.

Making specific agreements about each person’s needs, hopes and concerns also foster connection and trust.