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How an Understanding of Personalities Can Strengthen Your Security Team

Cobalt
Apr 8, 2020

In today’s challenging talent environment, security leaders face pressure to maximize the performance of their teams, while also keeping teams engaged. Leaders can make large strides in developing effective, cohesive teams by starting with an awareness of their own personality and then building that self-awareness among their teams and specifically focusing on the issues of communication and constructive problem solving. In taking this approach, leaders can ensure their teams have all the ingredients for success: technical skill, cutting edge technology, and an understanding of personality to utilize their talent to maximum effect.

The Myers-Briggs Company worked with Cobalt.io to develop a survey asking security leaders about the most critical talent challenges they face. We also examined our own database describing the personality characteristics of effective security professionals.

Taken together, this data points to some key levers that security leaders can pull to help their teams perform at their best.

Our data didn’t just provide valuable insight for enhancing the culture of existing teams. It lessened one of the biggest issues facing the security field today: an extremely tight job market where talented employees easily jump ship and find an abundance of other job opportunities.

So, what meaningful actions should leaders be taking?

1. Foster self-awareness within yourself

Self-awareness is the foundation of continued growth. And while self-reflection is valuable for understanding ourselves, our minds are filled with biases that cloud self-awareness. This is where psychometric assessments measuring important personality characteristics shed light on strengths and developmental opportunities.

2. Build awareness of your team’s personality characteristics

Leaders should leverage their insight to embrace personality differences across team members. While diverse teams are likely to experience initial growing pains, they’re ultimately able to handle the challenges presented by a complex and multifaceted security landscape.

3. Emphasize the development of communication

When individuals understand how their personality affects their communication style (e.g., self-awareness), they can learn to adapt their style to effectively inform and influence their team (other-awareness). Additionally, communication skills extend beyond the immediate team. They allow security professionals to provide compelling motivation for other employees to practice good security habits. How? By security professionals adapting their communication style to appeal to the values of a particular individual or group.

For example, many security professionals have a personality preference for Thinking (via the MBTI® framework). Those preferring Thinking make decisions by objectively evaluating situations and attempting to influence others by presenting straightforward facts.

This way of communicating can backfire if the audience doesn’t make decisions the same way.

For instance, when convincing someone with a preference for Feeling, sticking to “just the facts” isn’t likely to be effective. That’s because those preferring Feeling have an inclusive decision making style and care about how the actions impact others.

Although it takes training and practice, developing the ability to adapt one’s communication style plays a big part in building credibility and influence with key organizational stakeholders.

4. Learn the intricacies of constructive group decision making

Lastly, one of the biggest difficulties faced by teams is interpersonal conflict due to different perspectives and personalities.

But there’s good news. Awareness of differing viewpoints stem from basic understanding of underlying differences in personality characteristics. This understanding helps team members pave a path toward a solution, and they reach the solution faster if they’ve also been building strong communication habits along the way.

When operating at their best, security teams provide substantial risk protection. However, when teams aren’t functioning at peak levels, a demanding job becomes even more challenging, and performance can suffer. This is why an understanding of the power of personality and the importance of soft-skill development pays significant dividends. Having an understanding of personalities can be a key differentiator for organizations of all sizes.

Interested in understanding your MBTI personality type? We are still collecting data for our Personalities in Cybersecurity report. Join the research and find your free MBTI assessment here, after taking a 2-minute survey.

Find additional resources from the Myers-Briggs session at Cobalt.io’s recent Shift AppSec Summit here.

If you have any questions about personalities or the MBTI Assessment in general, feel free to reach out to directly to Sherrie Haynie.

Justin Arneson, PhD Senior Research and Data Scientist, The Myers-Briggs Company