Lesson 4.9

Understanding Personality Diversity

Start with this brief video, then proceed to the key concepts below:


Key Concepts


One of the most under-discussed types of diversity is Personality Diversity.

We might call it “how you roll.” And this type of diversity explains a lot of the dysfunction that many team cultures have. Because whereas people who “roll” differently have cognitive diversity, they also can have a lot of misunderstandings.

So what is personality?

By definition, personality is about how individuals behave differently than each other. Some psychologists even say that saying “personality diversity” is redundant.

There are lots of different tests out there that you can take to learn about your personality, because there are so many different elements of human behavior. Perhaps you’ve heard of the most popular tests—the Myers-Briggs, or the Big 5, which focus on a few of the ways that people think and feel. But there are tons of different ways of “categorizing” people by personality, because there are so many elements of personality besides just those.

If you wanted to, you could even categorize people by “Chocolate Personality” and say that everyone in the world fits into one of these three personality buckets:

  • a) People who like chocolate

  • b) People who don’t like chocolate

  • c) People who aren’t sure if they like chocolate or not

For most aspects of personality, research tells us that no human being fits “cleanly” into one “type” of personality. Each of the aspects of our personality is on a spectrum.

For example, when researchers categorize people’s personalities as they have to do with introversion and extroversion, they find that most people are neither 100% extroverted or 100% introverted. Everyone, rather, is somewhere in between. And most of us will behave a little more or less introverted or extroverted in different situations.

When it comes to collaborating with other people, however, it’s perhaps most useful to understand the different ways people’s egos behave differently. Just like the chocolate diversity, ego diversity is a way we can categorize people. Basically, everyone in the world can be classified by the following dimensions:

  • What kinds of things trigger us into going into a state where our ego is hurt

  • What kinds of things we tend to do and feel when our ego is triggered

  • How good we are at behaving in healthy ways when this happens

Ego personality diversity, in other words, means that people are liable to react in different ways to situations that are stressful.

But also, there’s a positive side to “ego personality.” Ego is, in psychological terms (rather than pop-culture terms), our recognition of who we are and how we are special. When our ego is threatened and we are not in a healthy place, ego can lead us to become pretty awful to other people. We make things about ourselves.

But when we are in a healthy place, our ego can actually be “leveraged” for good, as the Dalai Lama puts it. Meaning that by recognizing who we are and how we are special, we can then know how we can contribute our gifts to the group. We can make things about others, not just ourselves.

Because people are so different, and both the topics of ego and personality are so complex, we won’t go much further on this topic in this course. (If you’re interested in learning more, check out our friends at UpbuildNYC.com—and stay tuned as Snow Academy will be releasing a full online course on this in the future.)

Key Tips For Working With Personality Diversity:

A group of cognitively diverse people will have different personalities—and that is okay! The more we understand different personality types and the associated ego triggers, the more we can customize the way we work with each other.

  • Even people who grow up in exactly the same circumstances can have very different personalities. This is a dimension of diversity that we often overlook, and often don’t embrace in team settings.

  • And yet, personality diversity can be a huge addition to a team that is trying to traverse Problem Mountain together.

  • For a long time, people have assumed that certain dimensions of personality were simply more desirable—like extroversion, for example. However, research has shown that that’s not necessarily the case. Extroverts are made better by having introverts in their lives, and vise versa.

  • So it’s important to frame personality diversity as a potential benefit to a group, rather than to try to only gather up like personalities—or worse, try to get everyone to conform to one type of personality.

  • For this reason, personality tests shouldn’t be used to screen for people who “fit” a group, but rather to identify when people may “add” to a group because they roll differently.

The way we communicate with, persuade, and react to people is usually based on expectations about our own personality. But people with different personalities than us may not respond to that at all. Tailoring our communication based on our understanding of others’ personalities goes a long way.

  • We often mistake someone not responding in the way we expect as that person being uncooperative, unintelligent, or just bad. Reality is, often they are just cognitively different than us.

  • Understanding personality diversity can help us not jump to these kinds of conclusions.

  • Similarly, people with different personalities than us will often use different styles of communication and motivation than us.

  • It becomes immediately less off-putting when we default to presuming that communication issues are a matter of our different brains rather than the other person being awful.

Great cultures try to take personality diversity into account when designing rituals and establishing norms.

  • However, most cultures are driven by the personalities of the founders or leaders.

  • That means that cultures often have blind spots when it comes to including and getting meaningful benefit from those in the group who have different personalities.

  • The best leaders make a habit of consulting with people who roll differently than them before launching culture-related changes for their group—so they can make sure they’re not excluding or infringing on someone else’s personality in a way that will create resistance or power-reducing discrimination.