VOL. 126 | NO. 155 | Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Light Their Fire
Tattoo You With Personality
It sure would make things easier if we had our personality types tattooed on our foreheads, wouldn’t it?
Last week, when it just wasn’t hot enough in Memphis, I went to Texas (112 degrees) to visit my brother, Sean, an entrepreneur who has about five employees and assorted subcontractors. We were discussing an age-old topic: Why don’t our employees see things the way we do?
Being older (and supposedly wiser), I suggested he look at the career decisions his employees have made and consider what that might reveal.
As an entrepreneur myself, I know it can be exhausting to feel you have to “think of everything” yourself. But isn’t that why we became entrepreneurs? I mentioned to Sean that his employees had not chosen to be self-employed, which should tell him a lot.
They don’t want to think of everything; they prefer to work for Sean and let him think of it. He hired them because they’re good at a particular aspect of business, and they like to concentrate on doing that. He didn’t hire them to be like him. If they saw things the way he does, they wouldn’t work for him; they’d work for themselves and wonder why their employees don’t think like they do. At this point in the conversation, Sean indicated he was having an “Aha!” moment. See? That’s what big sisters are for.
Along the same lines, a friend of mine told me a story about how silly it is to gripe about blue jays being nasty and mean. That’s just how they’re made. So why do we get mad at blue jays for acting like blue jays? As Lady Gaga would say, they’re “on the right track, baby, they were born this way.”
If you just look at people’s choices you can learn a lot. Here are two other examples: Independent workers don’t want to manage others, and managers may not want to get into the nitty-gritty details like their employees do. So don’t promote an indy to manage people. And don’t expect managers to count the hairs on a dog.
A host of personality and thinking tests such as Myers-Briggs and Herrmann Brain Dominance can help us understand each other. They are somewhat limited, because they lump us all into four quadrants like Analytical, Driver, Expressive and Amiable or ESTJ, INTF and so on. But they are useful if we use them. Do you?
The last time you were confronted with a puzzling situation or an unexpected reaction from an employee, did you say to yourself, “Oh, yeah, he’s an Expressive,” or, “Well, naturally, that’s the way an ESTJ would behave.” Which brings me back to my original idea: tattoos on our foreheads. Business will never be the same.
Susan Drake is president of Spellbinders Internal and External Marketing. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.