The three personas of a team member

And, how they make or break a team

Tarun Kohli
Mar 29 · 4 min read

“The most valuable assets of a 20th-century company were its production equipment. The most valuable assets of a 21st-century institution, whether business or nonbusiness, will be its knowledge workers and their productivity.”

-Peter Drucker

I was blown away by the simplicity of the message- no fancy words, straight, and to-the-point. This quote once again drove home the point that to succeed as an organization it’s important to have the right people and an incredible organizational culture.

However, over a period of time, I have come to realize that even if you have devoted considerable amount of time in formulating purpose statements, even if you’ve ticked off everything from the list of “things to build a highly-engaged and productive organizational culture”, there is a possibility that it still won’t work out. The reason for this is that sometimes the problem is not in your control as it is about the people, or rather their personality types which control their desire to be engaged.

In any group or company we work for, we commonly get to see these 3 personality types (not that there aren’t more) of team members —

Bystanders. Journalists. Builders.

I have seen them make (and break) a team. And, if you have a keen eye, you’ll find these three personas in real life as well.

Bystander or a visitor

They are often on the sidelines without taking any stake. They lack the necessary skills to stop the problem when they see it happening. For instance, in a road accident, they are the ones who are often seen whispering with the other bystanders. Or, in the unveiling of a masterpiece, they are the ones who are there to admire it and nod freakishly to what others have to say about it.

In corporate world, such people hop from one company to another either witnessing crap or masterpieces getting built without investing much of their emotions. There is no research to prove why they behave the way they do but they are great at just one thing- witnessing a “job well done” from a distance.

Journalist

They are the people who take a little stake, at least, in reporting. Their purpose is to report and let the world know if something is broken or if a masterpiece has been created. They can gather a crowd and make people listen to them. Much like the TV reporters you see these days- they shout on top of their voices with flashy headlines- devoid of action, but yeah! They take the pain to report when something is not right or when something is incredibly amazing. But that is it. They don’t have any skin in the game or heart in the play. Their job ends at reporting with indifference to the outcome.

Builder/Fixer

People who either help out clear the mess in an accident or build masterpieces. They know how and what to do. Fear of failure doesn’t stop them from doing the right thing.

Such people are the ones who move into high action without ever being told what to do in a given (accidental) situation. They are the ones who take pride in building masterpieces, whether any visitor would be there to witness it, or a journalist to report it. They feel an unusual sense of moral responsibility towards their work and organization.


Just like all days are not made equal, it’s possible that your teammates oscillate between these personality types, instead of staying fixed in just one mold. One thing that you can do to succeed as an organization is- try and find more “builder” personalities. These people drive work to completion with little guidance and are self-motivated to achieve results.

However, if you work with people who don the “journalist” hat, help them realize how they can help the team win and be more proactive in taking responsibilities.

After all, as Dumbledore says-

“It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”


I wrote this blog for our Medium Publication- Unboxing Product Management. The publication is a weekly column by people of Quovantis to share their learnings.

Unboxing Product Management

Your weekly dose of everything related to Product, Process and People.

Tarun Kohli

Written by

Founder & CEO of Quovantis, an avid book reader and a student for life

Unboxing Product Management

Your weekly dose of everything related to Product, Process and People.