© PHOTO: Private Photo

Who am I and how do I best interact with people around me?

Why is it sometimes so difficult to work with some people, while it can be straightforward with others? What are the types of personality I best work with, and what about the rest of the team? In this article, Guro A. Johnsen gives her view about how human relationships are essential at work and digs into the key factors to create a successful work environment to boost performances?

The optimal person

Does the optimal colleague exist? Can somebody be optimal all the time and in each situation?  And if so, will this person be optimal also for the rest of the team?

What about personal energy?  People who have the extra power to work the necessary extra hours when needed?

I think it’s easier to answer these questions if you know yourself, your strengths and development areas, and for each and one in the existing team.

What makes Dagmara and me a good match? 

In the last eight months, I have been lucky to work with Dagmara Gersimuk, Development Director for the International Biathlon Union (IBU). Working with Dagmara is easy, fun and very powerful. Why is that so?

The first that comes to my mind is that we both have a huge work capacity. We never need to wait for the other one to deliver; and we never slow each other or the process down. Essential for me is that we have the same feeling when it’s time for fun/“small talk” and when it’s time to focus on what needs to be done. Dagmara is clearly more structured than me; I might be a little more entrepreneurial.  Even though, I fast fall in love with her organisation system, the system makes us better.  Combining the Norwegian, a little naive, not so strict when it comes to formal settings, with her a little more “sceptical” attitude (might more typical Polish (?)), and you get a good balance. 

Another critical factor in our work relationship is trust and respect for each other’s competencies, skills, and differences; we discuss, listen, and conclude. We also have a little positive competition, so when one of us agrees to do it the way the other suggests, she or I do all we can to prove it was a good choice.  In the end, it’s the result that matters first when our “clients”, in this case, the mentee and the IBU board, are happy with our delivery; we are glad.

When thinking of it, I realize that Dagmara and I are a good mix of being similar enough and different to complement each other. We are both extraordinarily result-oriented and demand more from ourselves than others. For me, it’s just great to work with somebody that does not “go to bed” before we know we have it all under control.  When working with her, I am not sitting alone working late nights to reach the expected result.

All this in combination gives, as the picture of Dagmara and me shows – Really good energy, and when there is good energy, it’s fun to work with each other.  The energy that we can see and feel hopefully spreads to others around us.  


A positive energy

Positive energy is a crucial factor. It is not the same as agreeing with each other all the time! I think many misunderstand this. When you have respect for each other, willing to listen to the other person’s opinion, even the most challenging discussion can give a kick of positive energy and be fun. 


Trust is the basis for a good work environment, work relationships and networking. When you know in your soul you cannot trust somebody; the relationship is not worth much. If you do not trust somebody, you will never be able to develop a “high-performance culture”. You will never/or most often not share your ideas for discussion. You will always question what this other person will do with the ideas that are not concluded. Some ideas that are not concluded to be the best there and then can be a good idea for the future; therefore, you must be sure the ideas stay within the team and that all are loyal.   

If you do not trust somebody, you will never be able to develop a “high-performance culture”.

Trust and feedback

When it’s time for feedback in the team, we experience that without trust, there can be no development. How can you take benefit from feedback if you don’t feel comfortable, nor trust the person who gives it? 

In my former job in the Norwegian Olympic Committee/Olympiatoppen, we focused a lot on complementary skills and development to foment a “high-performance culture”.  The feedback could be so direct and harsh that you did not only feel it in your stomach but in your whole body. Even if it was positive feedback! But not for one second did I doubt that this feedback was given to me by my nearest leader and colleagues with a good heart and a good meaning. I listened and did all I could to make the necessary changes. Because of the trust between us, I knew I also could be direct in my feedback towards them, with no fear that it would harm my career.       

Positive irritation

When somebody irritates you at work, my tips to you before reacting, stop and think. 

Does this person irritate you because the way he/she works is destroying the process or the speed of the process, or because it will create a better process?  If it’s the last, I usually call this “positive irritation”.  This is the irritation we often feel when people have complementary skills or personalities to ourselves, for example.  I am entrepreneurial and creative, and I produce a lot at a fast speed.  Of course, I get irritated if I work with somebody who stops me and asks me too often what about the structure, Guro? Or shall we not take a break for a cup of coffee (that I do not even drink).

Since I have worked a lot with my strengths and development areas and know I am not the best-structured person, I force myself, even though it’s not easy, to listen to the person and discuss how to go from there together. The platform SHESKILLZGLOBAL would not have been finished if I did not work with several structured people who consistently forced the structure into the process.        

Introvert feeler and extrovert feeler

What if you are an extrovert feeler and work with an introvert thinker or maybe even more difficult with an introvert feeler. What can happen in a conflict between the two? 

Let’s take an example to highlight it: It’s Friday afternoon, and the extrovert feeler sends an email to the introverted feeler. The extrovert is irritated and writes what she thinks without thinking about how it will be received. Instead, she releases all her feelings in the email. She sends it and feels relieved; she has got it out of her system. She does not think about it the whole weekend.

The introverted feeler received the email late Friday afternoon. It hits her in the stomach, and she felt hurt by the words used in the email and disagreed. But does she react there and then?  No, she decides to think a little before answering. The whole weekend she thinks about the email and feels hurt. Monday morning, she chose to respond. She has been thinking about what to write in details, so her answer is even more hurtful than the email she received herself.


The extroverted gets this email and is shocked; she thought both were finished with this case Friday, and without overthinking, she starts writing an even more hurtful answer….  And so, it goes on back and forward…

If these two colleagues or friends knew how they react differently, what would be the intelligent thing to do?

The answer is easy:  Do not write an email when feeling too irritated or hurt; take up the phone and call or, if in the same building, go to the person and talk about it. The two may still not agree, maybe even agree to disagree, but all the waste of energy and time could have been saved.

Need a safety net, or do not need a safety net

Need to be told what to do or start working.

My last example in this article deals with how we can be different. What when a manager does not need somebody to tell him/her? what to do when he/her hates when people constantly tell he/her what to do, down to the small details.  He/her takes fast decisions and puts them into action there and then. he/her is also an entrepreneurial type and not structured.  He/her takes for granted that the rest of the team is like him/her, and his leadership performance is based on this mindset.

On the contrary, among his direct reports, some like to get at least a direction for what they shall focus on, while some even like to know precisely what is expected from them. They want to get structure and organize meetings where they talk about what to do, deadlines and who shall be responsible for what. They are not risk-willing and have decided that leadership is not for them because they do not like to take decisions. They also hate when a decision is taken on Friday and when the manager comes back on Monday after thinking, suddenly everything shall be changed.

Several of direct reports are thinking about changing their job, and some are on sick leave because they may have a burnout.

How easy this could have been solved to make a better work environment for them all. If the manager just had taken the time to get to know the people in the team and how they feel and operate.  Even though he/she does not need structure, it does not mean others don’t, so he/she needs to give some structure.  Even though she/he likes to make decisions and loves it when things are changing in the process and get energy out of it, it does not mean others do. As a leader, if you are going to have the best from your teammates and have them produce good results, you must be the best leader for each of them. 

To be a good leader does not mean leading all your team members the same way, but also showing the individuals in the team, seeing them and their needs then and there.    

“As a leader, if you are going to have the best from your teammates and have them produce good results, you must be the best leader for each of them.“


Finding an optimal leader or colleague that is optimal all the time in all situations does not exist (at least, I have not met this person yet). 

Let’s focus on what we can do about it: let us learn as much as possible about our colleagues to find out how we complement each other and what we need to add from eventual external resources. 

When you have a chance to create a new team or you need to hire one or more people, you should focus on getting a good balance in the group with different types of personalities, skills, ages, gender and cultural backgrounds.   

Make sure you have built a trustworthy and loyal work environment, where each one has it under the skin.  This is so the feedback and the harsh inputs come from inside the team/organisation to you as a leader. To give you a chance to discuss if changes are needed.  It’s often too late when the critics come from somebody over in the hierarchy in the organisation or externally. 

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