How understanding personality types improves teamwork in radiology

For radiologists to work well together—as a team and not a group of individuals—they must understand each other’s personalities, according to a recent analysis published in Current Problems in Diagnostic Radiology.

“Dealing with personalities in the radiology department is more complex and time consuming compared to dealing with skills,” wrote Sherry S. Wang, MBBS, department of radiology and imaging sciences at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, and colleagues. “Personalities are like jigsaw puzzles and when placed together there are many rewards to the individual, section, department or company. It is important to keep in mind that everyone has different proportions of each the four dichotomies and it is definitely not one size fits all.” 

Wang noted that the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a well-known questionnaire that helps individuals learn their personality type, bases personalities on four dichotomies: Extraversion vs. introversion, intuition vs. sensing, thinking vs. feeling and judging vs. perceiving. She then explored how each dichotomy applies to a radiology department:

Extraversion vs. Introversion

“Extroverts derive their energy from others and stimulation from their environment,” Wang wrote. “Conversely, introverts derive their energy from themselves and small groups, with a heavy emphasis on reflection through listening and watching.”

While extroverts may be a perfect fit for a tumor board or taking on a key role within the reading room, the author added, introverts can generate "great ideas due to their observant and reflective nature.” If you’re looking to improve a particular process, an introvert can also be a great person to speak to for ideas.

“It is important to understand that everyone has a mixture of extroversion and introversion in their personality,” Wang wrote.

Intuition vs. Sensing

While imaging professionals who prefer intuition focus on “the big picture” and the future, Wang explained, those who prefer sensing are “realistic and pragmatic.”

Someone who relates more to the intuition side of things might make a perfect manager or mentor. They’re ready to spearhead projects and make an impact. On the other hand, someone who prefers sensing over intuition focuses on the details. Leaders should know how to work with these individuals, taking the time to communicate things to them.  

“These colleagues will not appreciate being ‘thrown into the deep end,’ find the time to sit with them and go through new tasks such as how and where tumor boards are run, how to perform new procedures and in the case of new faculty, how to work the IT, RIS and PACS systems,” Wang wrote. “These individuals will be very appreciative of these small gestures.” 

Thinking vs. Feeling

“Those who prefer thinking are logical and analytical,” Wang wrote. “These individuals can be described as ‘The Analysts’ who have the ability to see problems and has strong problem-solving skills to solve them. Decision making is separated from that of the personal relationship with whomever they are dealing with.”

When thinking-focused individuals give feedback, it often sounds harsher than intended, because that’s simply how their minds work. This is something to keep in mind when working with, or for, someone with this personality type.

When someone prefers feeling, however, they “are very in tune of their own and others’ emotions and emotional needs.” The author explained that these individuals respond positively to appreciation and tend to be empathetic and warm. If you have a position that requires a lot of open communication and keeping the office door open, a feeling-focused individual can be a great fit.

Judging vs. Perceiving

While someone who prefers judging is all about sticking to specific deadlines and doing things by the book, someone who prefers perceiving is more flexible and enjoys a certain sense of spontaneity.

In the radiology department, Wang explained, individuals who prefer perceiving often have “left field” ideas that seem strange at first, but end up being successful.

“These unconventional ways of approach may be the solution to the long-standing problem a department is experiencing, and it is important to make these people feel valued and appreciated by keeping an open mind,” Wang wrote. “However, these individuals should work closely with other colleagues who have high level of sensing, so they do not fall down a possible rabbit hole.”