“I not only use all the brains I have, but all I can borrow.” Woodrow Wilson
When faced with major challenges it is easy to feel the need to borrow others’ brains. However, working effectively with any team is always about this process. Each person has talents and skills. By the same token, we each have weaknesses and gaps in skills. Living in a complex society, there is no way any individual can know all about any one topic, even if they are considered an expert. Moreover, each person is born with certain potential based, in part, on personality characteristics that are inherent.
Last week one of the SALT Board members, Rev. Carl Shephard conducted a workshop about “Personality Characteristics” for the all-staff monthly in-service training. Each person took a personal style inventory and then scored it to discover their personal style. First, individuals looked at introversion and extroversion. Then the overall staff group was charted for this dimension.
Next these personality dimensions were discussed: Intuition-Sensing, Feeling-Thinking, Perceiving-Judging. As each person put all of these pieces together for themselves, a “personality type” was unveiled along with some general strengths and weaknesses associated with each. This part of the workshop was surprising for some who had never participated in this type of exercise before. Many were amazed at how accurate the survey was in pinpointing their own characteristics and preferences.
However, the most important part of the morning came in discussing the implications for the organization and the team as a whole. Understanding other team members’ types led to a greater understanding about the varied approaches to problem solving, to development of ideas, to participation in meetings, and to interpersonal challenges. The group realized that “different is not wrong” when considering types, but different can lead to misunderstandings if not considered. Most importantly, an effective team needs the differences, needs to fill gaps in one person’s personality strengths with another team member’s strengths to avoid major weaknesses in the team as a whole. While it may be hard at times, the payoff is a stronger team composed of members who are each made stronger by the others, thus creating the ability to achieve much more than any individual alone.
Whether thinking about a specific organization or collaborative relationships between organizations the principles are the same. When each member brings their strengths to the table while “borrowing the brains” of the other members, amazing results can be achieved. The Schoharie Valley’s recovery has been a testimony to this fact as collaborations focused on a common mission have created the strengths needed to keep the vision in view. As we approach the four year anniversary of the disaster, our challenge is to keep moving forward together and to let our differences strengthen us, not divide us.