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career coaching Leadership Development New Managers

Lead Right for Your Type (personality type, that is)

In 2008, Peter D’Adamo published a book called Eat Right for Your Type. The premise was that people with different blood types metabolize food differently. In addition to learning that bleached carbohydrates are not my friend (geesh, who knew?), a major takeaway/reminder for me was that we humans just don’t fit into a one size fits all. This is as true for leadership as it is for anything else. Forcing an introvert to act like Mel Gibson in Braveheart makes about as much sense as asking me to tell a story in three sentences or less, in a calm tone of voice. We might do it, but we’ll be miserable, with less than stellar results.

A major misconception about leadership is that one has to be an extroverted, powerhouse, Type A achiever to be a good leader. This often has the effect of deterring folks who don’t fit into that mold from pursuing leadership roles. The truth is that there are immense strengths that all personality types can draw on to be effective leaders.

For simplicity, I’ll use the DiSC personality to illustrate the point, although other useful personality indexes include the Enneagram or the MMPI. I like DiSC, because there are only four main categories, and I am an impatient, HIGH D, but you’ll get the idea whichever evaluation you use.

Speaking of D, the first type on the DiSC inventory is D, which stands for Dominance, and is characterized by being direct, strong-willed, and forceful. D’s are achievement-oriented and fast paced. The I (Influencer) type is much more sociable and talkative. They also enjoy fast paced but are warmer and more accepting than the questioning D types. The C (Conscientious) type is extremely detail-oriented and meticulous. They are cautious and reflective by nature as well as analytical and logical. The S (Steadiness) type is also cautious, but warmer and more receptive than the C. Nobody is just one type, of course, there are variations and combinations, and most people are a little dash of this and a dab of that. However most of us do gravitate more to one overarching style in our professional life.

Those of us who are D’s usually feel the leadership call loud and clear. Mostly because we don’t like anyone else telling us what to do, and we think we can do it better ourselves anyway. The biggest challenge for D leaders to overcome in their growth is to develop empathy and adjust our communication style to be better received by pretty much everyone else in the world. If you know that you are a D, you probably also know that those around you appreciate it when you talk a little less, a little more quietly, and listen a bit more.

But what about the other types? Is there room at the leadership table for an I, an S, or even a C? I say absolutely! Every personality style has unique gifts and strengths that make them highly effective as leaders. For example:

If you are a high I, you already know that you connect easily with people and love learning their stories. That likeability factor lends itself very well to leadership, as you are able to form meaningful relationships that can be transformational. You possibly are challenged with the detail side of things (much like your D counterpart), but if you’re aware of this, you can make allowances and be highly successful.

The C and S types are the ones who usually don’t see themselves as leaders, and can be particularly challenging for high D leaders and also some of the most valued team members. When you see C and D, think cats and dogs, and that pretty much sums up the relationship. While D casts a vision, C wants to work out all the details of exactly how the plan will work. C’s are very prone to paralysis by analysis and this can be an obstacle in their leadership. However, if you are a C, do not count yourself out. You bring a wealth of strength to your role and are able to provide true support to your team, because you will make sure you understand their jobs as well as they do. If C’s can remember to explain the Why before the How, and to do their best to stay out of the weeds, they can be excellent leaders who do very well on the back end of change management and implementations. If you are leading a C, especially if you are a D, try to take advantage of their ability to dive deep into the minutiae and their passion for excellence (even if it does feel like they are dream killers).

And finally the S. S’s are definitely not your typical CEO. They do not seek out change, and you will not find them on a soap box leading a charge. But their calm composure, and warm demeanor can be very reassuring in a storm. S’s are great leaders and second to none at gelling a team.

So, as you see, if you have a passion for serving others in a leadership role, you should never count yourself out just because you don’t fit the ‘typical’ profile of a leader. Similarly, if it’s your job to coach or groom up and coming leaders, be aware of your own type, and our propensity as humans to gravitate towards like individuals. If there’s any lesson to be learned, it’s that every type has something to offer.

Ask us about our premier management development programs – all you need when you promote from within, and if you want to learn more about how to optimize your personality style when it comes to leadership, click here for info on our upcoming workshop on this topic. 

Today’s Leadership Solutions is a Seattle-based consulting firm dedicated to providing business owners peace of mind and job fulfillment by ensuring their management teams are equipped to run their businesses successfully. With certified executive coaches, organizational development experts and HR Professionals, we consult with small to medium sized businesses on management, leadership, and recruiting solutions in addition to providing career coaching to managers and executives in transition. We can be reached for consultation at info@todaysleadershipsolutions.com

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Business Management Leadership Development New Managers

What I learned from managing the worst case of personality conflicts I’ve ever seen

I’ve written previously about my early career, and how I started off as an Organizational Behavior Management program manager and ended up a very reluctant manager in charge of building and running an HR department in a rapidly growing construction company. Most of the things I learned were either from my mentor (so had a decidedly behavioral slant in the approach) or trial by fire. This is a pretty good way to learn, if a bit stressful. There’s no way you can prepare someone for everything they’ll encounter in their management journey, which is why I love being a ‘mentor on call’ for folks starting out, or entering a new industry. One of my more memorable early experiences involved a gigantic mess of interwoven personality conflicts.

The scene was thus: I got a call from the area manager one day, who was completely frustrated that the upstairs admin team and the downstairs admin team were engaging in petty bickering to the extent that the majority of his time was being spent figuring out ‘she said/she said’ scenarios, hurt feelings, and accusations. He was ready to fire everyone except his lead Billing Manager.  Not because she wasn’t involved, but because he felt she was integral to his operation.

This was my first experience with a conflict of this magnitude, but I grabbed my trusty notebook and started talking to people one by one. Here are some of the things I heard:

  • It’s not that I don’t like her, but she makes mistakes all the time that make my job harder.
  • I don’t have a problem with anyone here.
  • She’s my co-worker not my friend – I’m getting paid to do my work, not socialize with everyone.
  • The manager has no idea what a slacker she is.
  • The manager has no idea what she’s saying behind his back.
  • She doesn’t take her job seriously.
  • I might have said that, but she said this.
  • There’s a LOT going on around here – you have NO IDEA.
  • I’m not being paid to be her friend.
  • I’m not rude. Maybe I don’t say good morning, but I don’t say anything rude.

A lot of this was accompanied by tears. At the end of the interviews I was no clearer about what was going on than I was at the beginning. If some of the employees were to be believed, things were dire indeed. I was inclined to agree with the manager that everyone needed to go, but we were in boom times, and qualified employees were not growing on trees. Fortunately, my behavioral training provided me with the skills to separate emotions and interpretations from behaviors, and this turned out to be one of the most important skills I had as a manager and HR leader.

The truth is, that an action can and will be interpreted in vastly different ways depending on the person doing the interpreting. Something like not saying good morning can be interpreted as somebody is busy, somebody doesn’t like you, someone is purposely disrespecting you, or the company is going out of business, depending on who is doing the action and who is doing the interpreting. The first job of a mediator in personality conflicts is to define behaviors and come to collective agreement on interpretation.

For example, in the situation I’ve been describing, I had to explain to all parties that saying good morning was expected professional conduct, that refraining to say good morning was impolite and discourteous, and that a basic expectation of our employees was to say good morning to one another. You may think this is an exaggeration, but this not by any means the only example of this situation that I’ve encountered.

Another comment I routinely hear is that the employee is not being paid to be friends with the co-workers. This can sometimes flummox managers, but it needn’t. The response is simply that they are being paid to ACT like friends, in that friends are courteous, help one another, exchange pleasantries, and keep commitments. No, I’m not paying you to hang out after work, but you certainly are being paid for professional conduct during work hours.

The other thing I learned that served me well for the next twenty years is not to be baited by ‘I know a lot of terrible things but I’m not going to tell you’ nonsense. There are different ways to deal with this but my preferred response is to let the person know that if they’re aware of illegal or unethical things happening and they don’t tell me, they’re accomplices and will be fired and that if something’s important enough to hint at, it’s important enough to be forthright about and if it’s not, keep quiet or I will suspect you of purposely sowing seeds of distrust. After that, just use common sense and your own emotional intelligence to determine whether someone has a legitimate problem or is making trouble.

Believe it or not, the case of the personality conflicts ended well. We were able to listen to everyone’s concerns, establish boundaries and expectations, and overcome some past grievances to achieve an astonishing about face. We didn’t end up letting anyone go, and I think the area manager and I were equally surprised and delighted by the result. Of course it’s not always that easy, but it taught me that it’s worth taking the time to go through these things and explain behavior that you think should be obvious. At least once.

What was the worst personality conflict you ever dealt with and how did it turn out?

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm providing comprehensive organizational development solutions for companies who are growing and who truly value their people.  With certified Executive Coaches, Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) practitioners, SPHR-certified HR professionals, and Organizational Development Specialists, Carrie’s team brings a unique perspective and a cross-functional approach to providing workplace solutions that work.  Carrie can be reached for consultation at carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com