Managing Groups and Teams/Psychological Profiling


Psychological profiling in team building can be a very useful tool in distinguishing personalities, traits, characteristics, strengths and weaknesses of each team member. From the beginning of time, people have had to work together and because no two people are alike, not even twins, the mind and overall psychological makeup or personality of a person can be an important aspect in building effective and productive teams.

In the early 19th century, when astronomers timed the passage of stars overhead, they noticed they all came up with different results. They took these differences and made an analysis of what they called the "personality" of the eye. Even as far back as the mid-1800's, distinguished scholars were championing the whole person as a unit of study. From that point forward, individual psychologists began to conceptualize personality and behavior differently.

Psychological profiling is a useful tool in the selection of a team, team alignment, personal development, coaching, and the overall team development. A team can certainly be formed without psychological profiling; however, with the power of knowing the personality and mind of each team member better, it gives the team a head start in meshing and forming the most effective team possible.

What is Psychological Profiling?Edit

Psychological profiling is the analysis of an individual or teams behavior and psychological characteristics, used especially to identify and explain the makeup of that person or the team in question. If the organization or team can better understand the makeup, behavior, and characteristics of the members of that team, it is more likely that those paired up will behave more congenial and have more overall cohesion within the group.

Sir Francis Galton may properly be called the first practitioner of psychological testing. It has been said that he originated mental tests, and assumed that intelligence could be measured in terms of a person's level of sensory capacity-the higher the intelligence, the higher the level of sensory discrimination. Galton also began a long line of research on mental imagery, much of which included the first extensive use of the psychological questionnaire. Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, James Cattell, B.F. Skinner and other great minds can also be much accredited for bringing psychological profiling to not only the individual, but to the groups or teams within organizations.

Carl Jung's theory of psychological types says each person is "wired" with different tendencies and preferences. Some of us are extraverted while others are introverted, some are "thinkers" while others are "feelers", and so on. Carl Jung also once said, “Personality is the supreme realization of the innate idiosyncrasy of a living being. It is an act of high courage flung in the face of life, the absolute affirmation of all that constitutes the individual, the most successful adaptation to the universal condition of existence coupled with the greatest possible freedom for self-determination.” In order for the team to understand the individual, the individual must also understand themselves.

Personality is often said to be the major makeup of an individual person or team’s make-up. A contemporary definition for personality is offered by Carver and Scheier (Professors of Psychology): “Personality is a dynamic organization, inside the person, of psychophysical systems that create a person’s characteristic patterns of behavior, thoughts, and feelings.” Important aspects of the psychological or personality makeup may be:

  • Dynamic Organization: suggests ongoing readjustments, adaptation to experience, continual upgrading and maintaining Personality doesn’t just lie there. It has process and it’s organized.
  • Inside the Person: suggests internal storage of patterns, supporting the notion that personality influences behaviors, etc.
  • Psychophysical systems: suggests that the physical is also involved in ‘who we are’
  • Characteristic Patterns: implies that consistency/continuity which are uniquely identifying of an individual
  • Behavior, Thoughts, and Feelings: indicates that personality includes a wide range of psychological experience/manifestation: that personality is displayed in MANY ways.

Carver & Scheier also suggest that the word personality “conveys a sense of consistency, internal causality, and personal distinctiveness”. This issue of “personal distinctiveness” is very important. There are certain universal characteristics of the human race and particular features of individuals. We all for example experience stress and the elevated pressure that goes with it. The real key is this though - Every one of us is unique too. That is why using psychological profiling can point out much of those unique points and point the team in the right direction to play on those unique points, while also meshing with the similar characteristics.

Types of Psychological ProfilingEdit

There are many types or ways an organization can perform psychological profiling in building and sustaining teams. Actual tests or questionnaires can be performed – possibly the number one way most people may think of psychological profiling. However, there are other ways. Psychological Profiles also known as Personality profiles can be deduced from any public information such as demographic data, internet search, media, opinions, blogs, social networking services, wikis, newsgroups, words, voice, pictures, videos, biological features, physical features, body language, forums, message boards including other methods such as statistical comparisons with peer groups.

Factors such as how people create various usernames, emails, IM Names, the way people write, the style and method of writing, the words they use, their pictures, videos, voice, biological features, physical features, body language, their comments etc also have relevance. This can also help to understand and estimate behavior in different social and team situations.

Relevancy of a personality profile also known as psychological profile is proportional to the accuracy of the background information you provide. The fundamental point of profiling is comparing a subject's behavior with the behavior of others in similar circumstances who have been studied in the past. The key to good profiling is in deducing what background effects what trait and identifying patterns. Often times what most people commonly consider to be irrelevant pieces of information could be very relevant for any trait. It is also possible that people have a certain trait but do not act upon it due to external circumstances that make it very difficult for them to act in accordance with their natural trait. In these situations when the external circumstances are removed people revert to their natural trait.

There are no traits that are all bad or all good. Good or bad is very relative and defined according to the society one lives in or the circumstances. Certain traits in certain situations would be extremely desirable and those same traits in a different situation could be extremely undesirable. And even within the same society, concepts of good or bad may change over time, particularly if influenced by evolving societal values or expectations.

Often times people's own perceptions about their behavior, thoughts or functioning are biased by their own ideal image and experiences. Objective observers, on the other hand can provide a more unbiased assessment of these behaviors. To you your own traits, may seem perfectly normal, typical or not typical. Yet to those around you, they may seem typical, odd or abnormal. Normal is often defined by what's statistically average. Most people fall in the middle ground, the average, while others fall to one extreme or the other. And what is normal also changes over time particularly when influenced by evolving societal values or expectations.

Although there are a number of ways psychological profiling may be administered to the individual or the team as a whole, below are some major tools used by many organizations to understand the team building process better. It is best to analyze the particular industry and business that is in need of team building and decide upon the best tool available for that organization. One may find that not only one tool is sufficient, but may need multiple tools to understand fully and reach the goals of team building that are needed for ultimate success. The options available specifically for teams are bolded:

Personal Competence Social Competence
Adversity Quotient (Paul Stolz, 2000) Similar to resilience and hardiness, the Adversity Quotient has been proposed as an indicator of capacity to withstand and thrive on challenging circumstances specifically related to business and the workplace.
Enneagram (Google search) Personality tool based on 9 personality types. Developed with a more deeply historical and spiritual orientation than most other similar questionnaires by some leading humanistic psychologists, including Gurdjieff, Ichazo, and Naranjo. The types relate to the major roles that people seem to adopt and play in society. There is no definitive Enneagram questionnaire - various free and commercial versions are available.
DiSC Management Strategies (Corexel) Commonly used tool and associated training program for providing feedback and improving on people's self-management and team management in workplace settings.
Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (Herrmann, 1970's) The HBDI 120-item self-report diagnostic tool which provides thinking styles profiling based on left-right hemisphere preferences and cognitive vs. limbic thinking preferences. Can also be used for team profiling, building, and analysis.
Human Synergistics (Human Synergistics International, 1970's) A thinking style / personality profiling and feedback system, plus training program, which can be completed on an individual, team and organization level to assess strengths and areas for improvement/change in individual effectiveness.
Keirsey Temperament Sorter Similar to the MBTI, identifies 16 personality sub-types, based on dichotomous ratings on 4 main personality factors which are derived from the psychological work of Carl Jung.
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator The MBTI is the most widely used personality assessment questionnaire, particularly in workplace training. The MBTI identifies people as being one of 16 overall types, based on dichotomous ratings on 4 main personality factors.
Team Management Systems (Margerison & McCann, 1980's) Profiles the kinds of kind of roles people prefer to play in groups and teams. Provides individual and team-levels of analysis. Used to help improve quality of team performance.
360-Degree Feedback System for gathering feedback from others about personality and work styles which makes particular use of combining observer ratings and comparing with self-ratings.

These instruments are commonly used and recommended as comprehensive personality and team profiling tools. These tools are often used by organizational consultants, managers, individual team members, and workplace trainers to help facilitate understanding of:

  • personal strengths and weaknesses
  • other team members' strengths and weaknesses
  • a team's overall strengths and weaknesses
  • an organization's overall strengths and weaknesses


As we have discussed in this section, psychological profiling can be a very important and useful tool in team building and maintaining effective groups. With psychological profiling being the analysis of an individual or teams behavior and psychological characteristics, used especially to identify and explain the makeup of that person or the team in question, one may better understand the dynamics or make-up of each individual and overall team better.

It is also imperative to remember that there are many types of psychological profiling as discussed in this section, ranging from search, media, opinions, blogs, social networking services, wikis, newsgroups, words and so forth, to actual testing, questionnaires, etc. Testing may include such options as: DISC Management Strategies, Team Management Systems, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and so on. These tools help to not only understand the individual and the “map” they are working on, but also how these individuals will affect the team and the overall potential of cohesiveness, productivity, and possible effectiveness. Understanding the benefits and drawbacks of psychological testing, knowing what tool to use and when to use it, can be a major assistance to any organization and or groups/teams. Recognize the audience being profiled and determine what is best for the purpose the organization is looking to achieve.


Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. (2000). Perspectives on personality (4th ed.) Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Burger, J. M. (1993). Personality (3rd ed.) Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Ridley, M (1999). Genome: The autobiography of a species in 23 chapters. London: Fourth Estate.

Schultz, D., & Schultz, S.E. (1994). Theories of personality (5th ed.) Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

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