It’s about the personality, not the role

There’s a never ending debate on where internal communications or the intranet team should sit within an organisation. Should it be in HR? In Communications? Should intranet teams sit in IT? It has been debated in conferences, workshops and even between the Intranetizen team. What can be agreed is that there is no perfect or clear answer; it all depends on your organisation. But that’s the problem, some organisations want to know the market trends, want to know what others are doing so they can implement it. We ask, is that really the best thing to do?

Taking this one step further, what about your developmental project team? Last March, we wrote about building your developmental intranet team. In Jonathan’s post he detailed all the department representatives you need to deliver a successful intranet project. Having the right mix is crucial but what about the people you actually recruit?

It doesn’t matter if you are trying to figure out where IC or the intranet team should sit (or even who should sit on your wider project team),  don’t just pick a mix of departments, pick the people with the right personality to support your wider vision. What may work for one organisation will not work for the other.

It’s about the personality

In psychology, the Big Five personality traits are five broad dimensions of personality that are used to describe human demeanour. The Big Five factors are:

  • Openness reflects the degree of intellectual curiosity, creativity and a preference for novelty and variety.
  • Conscientiousness is a tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement; planned rather than spontaneous behaviour; organized, and dependable.
  • Extraversion comprises of energy, positive emotions, assertiveness, sociability and the tendency to seek stimulation in the company of others.
  • Agreeableness means being compassionate and cooperative.
  • Neuroticism refers to the degree of emotional stability and impulse control.

Because the Big Five traits are broad and comprehensive, they are not nearly as powerful in predicting and explaining actual behaviour in individuals, but they are a step in the right direction.

What personality traits are you looking for?

We all want to have a line manager or a department that supports us, that challenges us and let us continually improve our intranet and internal comms initiatives. Same goes for a project team. So, what are the personality traits you need to find in others?


Depending on the scope of your initiatives, your team(s) may not see something tangible for weeks. There will be a lot of discussions about possibilities and opportunities but not a lot of hard evidence. Your team members need to have the imagination to picture in their heads what is possible. Sounds easy for a lot of us, but can be terribly difficulty for others.


Observant people may be your best friend or your nemesis. They can be highly annoying as they take longer to review even the littlest things. But, their role in your team is instrumental in picking up potential issues that could escape your keen eye. Make peace with their pedantic nature and take on their suggestions and comments.


Well really, do we need to say more? No one wants to work with stupidity.


This trait is very important and should be seen in your line manager, your team, project team and any other colleague you work closely with. We should have people with more integrity in our lives. You want to surround yourselves with people who are dependable and do what they say.


We need to have a massive amount of courage to be in the roles we are. But we also require the people around us, especially our line manager to have the courage to support us and to back us up in those difficult boardroom discussions. Similar to imagination, it takes a giant leap of faith to see the vision we are pitching become a reality.


It’s a well-known fact that people, a large amount of them, are resistant to change. The scope of an intranet practitioner is all about change; making things better. Determination in yourself and in your team will help you to ignore the blockers and keep on forging ahead.


Always try to avoid that over-promising black hole. Our team members, our line manager and even ourselves need to be given a healthy dose of reality every once in a while. A realistic but optimistic mind-set will help you to avoid the traps of other departments where they promise the world but deliver you a village.


No one wants to have to work with or for an unmotivated slacker.


This is not a comprehensive list, but this is our top list of traits that should be evidence in your line manager and team. If you have this winning combination in your line manager then it really doesn’t matter if you sit in HR or Comms or IT. All that matters is that you have a team that has determination in what your intranet can achieve and promises to do everything in their power to make it a success.

Let’s be honest here. You may not find someone with all of these characteristics. But if you do hold on to them and never let them go! Did we capture the most important traits? Let us know.

There are 6 comments

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  1. Peter Richards

    Nice post Dana with some excellent team building insights. My primary take out from this piece is how absolutely essential it is for the Intranet Manager to have bucketloads of optimism!

    I get mixed emotions of envy and anger when the I read articles about the Intranet Team. What team?

    In my last role the Intranet was developed, maintained and managed by one person. In my current role the same is true however the portfolio has expanded to include the Group Intranet, around 40 TeamSites and 7 external web sites and this is a large organisation of over 8000 employees. It is true that there are about 50 content managers across the group that could be collectively defined as “The Team” however the role of developing, maintaining and managing the Intranet falls on a single individual who has to beg borrow and steal to get any development resources prised away from working on our revenue generating web sites.

    To those of you in organisations where you have an adequately funded and resourced Intranet Team ( I am thinking of you @DigitalJonathan) you should give praise each and every day because in my experience that is definitely not the norm.

    I must apologise if my tone comes across as bitter and twisted. It has been a very long week 😉

    • @danaleeson

      Thanks for your comments Peter. (Sorry for calling you by your last name)

      Believe me, I ‘get you’! I too am envious of all of these large teams. I have been a team of one for so long yet my remit is getting larger with every quarter. I put in teams begrudgingly to capture some of our readers (and contributors) who have large teams, but lets remember our governance councils, our working groups, our superusers and most importantly our line manager. These are all traits we should look for when recruiting people for those roles.

      I read this post and think of my reporting structure. I sit in IT. I report to the CIO, yet I am not technical. I am the farthest thing from a stereotypical IT person. I am providing a business solution not an IT solution. But reporting into the CIO works for me and our company because he possess most of the traits I listed above.

      It’s been a long week for me too, shall we meet for a pint and commiserate? (you have to pay for my flight)

  2. James

    Hi Dana, great post and I completely agree with the points you make. I think above all an intranet manager has to have a positive/optmistic outlook. You’re trying to engage users and effectively sell the tool you manage so being pessimistic about its use and how well the organisation is using it, isn’t going to do down well.

  3. Ellen van Aken

    Is is about the team, not the place in the organisation. Indeed. At my previous role, our team moved from Communications to Corporate Affairs to HR to IT. The only person who noticed a change, was the team manager, who had to report to someone else all the time. But because we knew what we were doing and where we wanted to be, we never changed course or anything.
    In case you are getting jealous now: due to several reorganizations and spinoffs, the team was split up and dismissed. But it was great while it lasted, and it showed what a good team can do!

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