Do Your Teams Have the Big-Five Factor?

There is something called the Big-Five model, a framework that is well researched and well accepted around the world by psychology experts. The Big-Five model has five key factors that define the attitudes and behaviours that decide job performance. The Big-Five factors are:

  • Extroversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Emotional Stability
  • Openness to Experience

These 5 factors were initially developed to understand the relationship between personality dimensions and performance on the job. A closer look at what each of the 5 factors stands for shows that it is an extremely useful framework for identifying people for teams as well. Let’s see what these 5 factors really mean in terms of behaviours and attitudes:

Interpreting the Big-Five Dimensions

  • Extroversion: Sociable and assertive
  • Agreeableness: Cooperative and trusting
  • Conscientiousness: Responsible, dependable and achievement oriented
  • Emotional Stability: Secure, positive individual
  • Openness to Experience: Originality, enthusiasm to learn and explore, willing to adapt to change

It is quite clear from the above description, that these can indeed be the underlying factors that an organisation should look for when they form teams. Even before an organisation attempts to bring diversity in by considering different personality types, thinking approaches and work styles, it is important to first identify individuals with a few common traits that make them suitable for group work. The factors in the Big-Five model offer traits that can form the fundamental basis for an individual to be considered a good choice on a team. These factors are actually qualities that make for good team work. These factors have to precede all other qualitative considerations that fall under the realm of team selection. The Big-Five are like a backbone that is desirable in every member on a team.

In fact the only factor among the big five that may seem like it is not all that important for all types of professions is Extroversion. For instance, sales professionals or public relations executives need a high level of extroversion as these professions call for well developed social interaction skills. However, some degree of extroversion is relevant in every team member, irrespective of profession, to ensure that all the team members are participative, able to communicate effectively and contribute to the team process in a confident manner. The ideal concept of the team is one where all the team members apply their knowledge, learning and experience to enrich the output from the team as a whole. Any team work requires a level of extroversion for the team’s interactions to throw up productive results. Therefore a small dose of extroversion is a desirable quality for a person to be a good team player.

Agreeableness is a definite plus for team work. Cooperative individuals are ideal in group situations since they are capable of handling collaborative work where all the team members have to get along, have amicable meetings, interact, share information, be helpful and supportive and jointly arrive at decisions.

Conscientiousness is another highly desirable quality in a team member since it implies responsible behaviour, reliability in handling one’s role within the team, the ability to be accountable, and being dedicated and committed to the proper accomplishment of the task

Emotional stability ensures that the person can devote 100% to the task at hand and not become bogged down by anxieties and lack of self-confidence brought on by personal insecurities.

Openness to experience is a highly appreciated quality in teams because the team members are expected to think out-of-the-box and have a keen interest in the world around them. If they have this quality they are able to understand and reflect back socially and culturally relevant solutions that positively impact the business. Openness to experience also ensures that training programs are well received and utilized by team members. Organisations put in time, resources and a great deal of effort into developing training programs to upgrade the skills of their employees. Unless team members are open and willing to learn they cannot apply new and cutting edge thinking to their jobs.

The Big-Five factors are qualities that make for effective team work. These qualities ensure effective interaction, collaborative work, accountability, positive thinking and the capability to harness learning towards breakthroughs in new approaches and ideas.

How Do You Use the Big-Five in Selecting the Team-Mix?

  • Team members are firstly identified and short-listed for a team because of the functional knowledge and technical expertise that they can bring to a particular task or project.
  • The next level of sifting can take place using the Big-Five factors. It involves assessing those with technical expertise and functional knowledge on their agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability and so on. The Big-Five factors help companies identify individuals who will be amenable to working jointly with others in a team environment.
  • The final selection can be based on other dimensions that can bring in diversity and qualitative differences into the team such as work styles, thinking approaches, inherent strengths and relevant personality traits desirable for a particular project.

1. Essentials of organisation behaviour, Stephen P. Robbins (Fifth edition, pages 35-36)

Personality Traits, Work Approaches and Thinking Styles

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