Whether you work for yourself or someone else, you’re bound to encounter a variety of personality types. You don’t always get to choose who else is on your team. If you hire them, sure, but you might be on a crew with a bunch of people your client hired. You might have to communicate with different positions at their company. If something is just a bad fit, that’s one thing, but often the best thing you can do is learn to work with everyone, even if they aren’t necessarily your favorite. You don’t have to like them, but you do have to work together. Here are some things that have worked well for me in my career, where I’ve dealt with all kinds of people.
The hardest, probably, is when you really don’t like someone. Something about their personality rubs you the wrong way. Maybe it’s the way they talk. Everything they say sounds condescending or cocky. Maybe it’s the way they treat others. That’s usually the hardest one for me to accept. Or maybe you feel they don’t do a good job and bring down the team. There are plenty of reasons why you might not like someone, but you still have to work with them. I find it’s best to find something good about them and focus on that. Perhaps they are really good at what they do, or at solving problems, or at motivating others. Find something, anything. If you still can’t, look for a common interest or anything that might help you connect when you have to. Concentrating on all the things you dislike about someone is only going to bring you down.
In other circumstances, you might butt heads with someone. Maybe you’re both Type A personalities and want to be in charge but you have different opinions of which way is best. Both of you should give a little, but neither of you wants to. In those situations, it’s often going to be better for you in the long run to offer a compromise. Not saying you should give in or step down when you’re confident about something, but find a way so the other person can get something he wants and you get something you want. It’s basically a negotiation. For example, if there are two major components to a project, let her take the lead on one and you take the other. As long as you’re both communicating, you can probably find that middle ground.
In other scenarios, you might be an introvert working on a team of extroverts. They always want to meet in person, have group chats, and because they work better in a collaborative environment, they assume you do as well. Or it could be the opposite and you’re the extrovert looking for some energy from a group where everyone else is quietly working alone. Instead of expecting them to know what you need, talk to them. I often explain to people up front things about myself I think will help. Like how after a long day of shooting, if everyone wants to go out to dinner afterwards and I politely decline, it’s not about being antisocial. I need that time to decompress to make sure I’m at my best the next day. My alone time is important. Having that quick conversation up front avoids issues later. It’s not that I feel I have to explain myself, but it helps me when others understand my working style up front so they don’t make the wrong assumptions.
As always, communication is the key to all of this.
Be mindful of the way you say things. If you disagree with the way someone is doing something, don’t start by saying that’s a dumb way to do it. Instead, ask them why in a way that conveys you want to understand, not criticize.
Be open minded. Your way might work for you, but it’s not the only way. It’s not necessarily the best way. Sometimes it is, but there are always opportunities to learn from others. Our brains all work differently, and you never know when someone is going to show you a different way of doing things that will make your life easier.
Be respectful of people’s differences. Everyone has their own way of doing things, and it’s dangerous to start comparing them as better than or worse than your way. The great thing about working with people is that you get all those different perspectives. So allow people to be who they are. This is something my mom said the other day when we were talking about this, because it’s something that’s helped her do really well at her job. Think about that. Let people be who they are. I think that’s good advice for all situations, not just business. You don’t have to try to change someone to help them be better.
Above all, be kind. It’s that simple. There are people out there who think of kindness as a weakness, but those people are missing out. Being nice to people has gotten me far in my career. And it’s not about sucking up. It’s not being disingenuous. It’s about being respectful and helpful.
Extract the best from others.
I’ll never forget the time I asked a client, “Is there anything I can do to make your life easier during this project?” He stopped what he was doing, which is rare, looked puzzled, and said, “I don’t think anyone has ever asked me that before.” That was baffling to me because it’s something I ask people all the time out of consideration. I rely a lot on my observations, which are pretty helpful, but the easiest way to know what someone wants or needs is to ask them. Yet, for some reason, people love to guess instead and then get disappointed when they don’t get it right. I’ve never understood that one.
That’s what a leader does. It’s not about morphing everyone else into you or changing their ways to be more like yours. It’s about embracing everything about who they are and extracting the best. They probably have different strengths than you do, so use that to make yourself better.
Do your best to adapt to their communication style, even if it’s different than yours. This one can be tough, but I find that I have better results when I change my ways instead of expecting others to. I usually ask clients up front how they prefer to communicate – via email, text or phone. I prefer emails, personally, because it fits into my system and makes it easier to track what’s been done and what needs to be done. But some people really hate email and they aren’t going to respond. So if they need to have a phone call, as much as I don’t like to talk on the phone, it’s going to get me what I need faster than waiting on a written response.
The only time I put my foot down is when people want to meet in person, and I don’t believe that’s an efficient way to do things. If it makes sense, sure, but usually I’ll offer a video call as an alternative. I find that in-person meetings are often a waste of time and there are better ways to use my clients’ budgets than paying for my time to drive across town, wait around every time they get another call, and all the chit chat. I like the chit chat when there’s time for it, but when there’s a lot to do and we need to be productive, I can do that better from home. That’s another case where I explain my point of view up front and then it’s not an issue.
There are always going to be those emotional vampires out there. The button pushers who want to get under your skin. The troublemakers who like to start drama. Don’t worry about them. Treat them just like you would anyone else. Being kind to those people, and not playing into their games, takes away the power they think they have, and they’ll usually move on quickly.
Figure out what they need.
Before I started my last job job, the owner of the company told me there was a girl there who would hate me. She’d never met me, so it was an odd thing to say, but she felt she was entitled to my job, so they knew she was automatically going to resent anyone in that position. I saw it from day one. She was judging everything she could, looking for a flaw or something she could use against me. I didn’t add any fuel to her fire. I was nice to her. I took an interest in her. I was maybe even overly kind, even when she gave me attitude. I’d ask about her family and other things she was doing. After a week or two, she completely lost interest and moved on to someone else. We never became friends or anything like that, but we were able to work together peacefully, which is sometimes all you can really expect.
With everyone, figure out how they respond. Do they thrive on praise? Tell them they’re doing a good job, if you believe it. You don’t need to pander to anyone, but maybe their arrogance is actually masking a great deal of insecurity and they just need to be told they’re doing good work. Some people need to know they’re trusted. Be careful not to micromanage those people. Actually, I don’t think anyone really likes being micromanaged. It’s tough sometimes, but you have to empower people to make decisions. You might not always agree with the way they do things, but then you can discuss it and have a productive conversation about how to do things in the future. Others want to feel included, so talk to them about what’s going on. If it’s appropriate, let them join in on meetings, or get their feedback about ideas that might affect them. You never know if they’re sitting on a brilliant idea.
Whether you work for yourself or someone else, you’re inevitably going to have to work with different personality types. Instead of getting frustrated when people don’t do things the same way you do, embrace their differences and take those opportunities to expand your own point of view. You can’t change them, but you can change the way you interact with them.
There is far more power in being adaptable than being right. And if you think about it, in most of the work we’re doing, there really isn’t a right or wrong way to do things. Just different ways. So don’t waste your time worrying about it. Do your best to be productive and keep things moving forward in a positive direction, no matter how many personalities are on your team.