When it comes to teamwork, one thing can be said: Top talent can accomplish great things together, but can also drive each other crazy in the process.
You don’t have to be a huge comic book fan to have heard about the movie The Avengers. They are like the ultimate dream team. To those who follow the series like I do it’s exciting to see some of Marvel’s strongest superheroes join forces.
Each of the characters comes with their own impressive story and superpowers (not unlike many of the people that make up teams at work). But sometimes meshing strong personalities on a super team can seem bigger than the task itself.
The qualities that make them good on their own can be the very same things that cause them to clash when they work as a team.
It’s ironic because the same can be said when it comes to working with your colleagues. Often the real headaches come from dealing with challenging personalities—the project is sometimes the easy part.
If you have a collection of strong personalities, it can easily become a battle of egos on each project. The end result can often be successful, but the process to get there makes you wish that you could vanquish them to another galaxy.
Let’s take a look at common personality types in the workplace, courtesy of the Avengers, and the best way to attack them (figuratively speaking, of course).
1. The Director – Nick Fury
This is the member who is usually the main leader calling shots and assembling groups for projects. They are often the mediators between what the higher-ups demand and what people really need. They seem like they straddle the line between the two sides. Or sometimes appear to be on no one’s side but their own. This can be the cause of tension throughout projects, but they are respected for their knowledge and experience.
Plan of attack: Be clear in stating what can or cannot be done. A lot of times they may seem to bark orders, but they often are under more pressure than you realize. Also know that they expect you to speak up if you feel like something doesn’t make sense or you are given too large of a task. If you don’t see eye-to-eye, come back with solutions on why something can’t be done rather than just saying it won’t work.
2. The Classic Leader – Captain America
This is the team member who has been with the company forever, and probably mentions the good ole’ days often. They are strong leaders who bring out the best in those they work with. But the problem is that they sometimes seem inflexible when it comes to trying different approaches.
Plan of attack: Understand that it’s not personal. Sometimes they may be difficult because of their own insecurities about the changing times. Also, there’s usually a feeling of seniority that may stand in the way of taking on new ideas. Let them know that you respect their past contribution, but there are many innovative ways to approach a new project. Show them that there’s room to be partners and come up with the best solution that can make everyone feel comfortable.
3. The Spy – Black Widow
This is the team member who you never really know what to make of. Sometimes they seem like they are cool to work with, but other times you can tell they are collecting information for their own benefit. Are they good or bad? It depends. They can be a problem if they’re using information to try to sabotage a project or take all the credit. But they can be an asset if you have them on your side because what they know you will know too.
Plan of attack: Be selective about what you share with them until you get a better handle of their intentions. They can be very helpful when it comes to getting information critical to close the gaps on projects. Use that skill to your advantage. You can make them an ally so that their “digging” actually works in your favor and not against you.
4. The All Mighty – Thor
This is the team member who is the royalty of their group. They have earned a great deal of respect and are very influential in the workplace. A lot of times they are hard to work with because it can initially be a battle (no pun intended) over who has the most power. The issue may not always be that they are bad people, they just need to be more acquainted with humble pie every now and then.
Plan of attack: The best way to deal with them is to lead with your “A-game” (which I’m sure you do anyway). Don’t let them run all over you. You should demand respect even if you’re not as well-known or influential. They appreciate strong personalities like themselves and will respect you more if you assert yourself. Let them know that you’re more concerned with getting the job done than comparing who has the biggest hammer.
5. The Ego – Iron Man
Speaking of ego: This is the superstar team member who is full of it (yes, we’re still talking ego). They are geniuses who excel in every project they touch. They also love the spotlight and all that comes with being one of the best. But this sometimes comes at a cost. Their flaws, like having a big ego and missing important details that are not glorious tasks, can be a weakness. They are dynamic team members, but their complexities can give off conflicting impressions.
Plan of attack: Give them room to do what they do best. You can’t stop a personality from being big, but you can rein them in when needed. This can be a matter of taking on or delegating tasks that you know isn’t their cup of tea. But also asking them to do some of the things you don’t want to do. They like using their brains and feeling important, so make that work to your benefit rather than fighting against it.
6. The Wild Card – Hawkeye
This is the team member who is perceived differently depending on who you ask. Some may not know much about their capabilities. And others are very aware of their strengths. This is because they’re not always front and center and don’t feel the need to be. They can be on the border of passive or aggressive, but you don’t always know what to expect. This leads to them often being underestimated, but they can easily prove you wrong.
Plan of attack: Take the time to find out their story if you don’t know much about them. Often it’s the quieter ones that have a lot of valuable experience. They tend to play the background but can be a good leader when it matters most. Don’t make any assumptions about who they really are. Look at them with a clean slate and then you may find out that you have more in common than you think.
7. The Madman – The Hulk (Bruce Banner)
This is the team member that makes no qualms about their authority and ability to be intimidating at times. They are the ones that can make meetings entertaining when you’re not on the receiving end of their raft. They usually have the best intentions to play nice, but can easily be provoked and show “another side.”
Plan of attack: Don’t poke the Hulk. Jokes aside, they are not as scary as they may seem. They usually mean well, but are also very passionate about getting the job done right. They also have very little patience for petty games and office politics. This is where they tend to blow up or become aggressive when others don’t play nicely (you definitely don’t want to agitate them for entertainment’s sake). Your best bet is to be direct and upfront with them. Don’t come with any hidden agendas and be transparent with your actions.
The Avengers image courtesy of Marvel
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