I get such a kick out of people-watching and personality styles. We never got much schooling on this when we were kids or even in college. So it was a real eye-opener to learn at work why we do the mystifying things we do. I’ve spent decades teaching corporate types and coaching clients about these skills and love seeing the looks on people’s faces when their personality assessment nails it. Nine times out of ten, they say it’s 90-95% accurate.
This article is not intended to sell you a personality assessment (although if you want one, I can certainly make that happen). It IS the first part of a mini-course on the four typical behavioral styles. You’ll find this of value in case you want to figure out your significant other, teenager, manager or do a deep dive into your own preferences. Even if you’ve taken an assessment in the past, I may explore some areas you didn’t get in a previous class.
In the next four articles, I’ll share the traits and strengths of each style. This post will kick it off with an overview. But first, a story!
My Parking Lot Experience
Years ago I was hired to facilitate a training for the senior hospital staff at a Regional Medical Center in the midwest. These were the power people in the organization: Medical Administrator, Human Resources Manager, Head Nurse, etc. Our class was held at the local college and I arrived bright and early, parking way out in the north 40 where there were very few cars.
I was running a bit late, so I parked quickly, then set to work unloading all my trainer’s paraphernalia, flip charts, etc. When this chore was done, I stepped back and noticed I had parked my car off kilter. It was halfway into the next spot and crooked as a stock market chart.
I hesitated. I pondered. Should I move all my stuff out of the way, get back in the car and straighten it out? Or, should I just let it be, assuming few people would park that far out and be inconvenienced by my sloppy style?
But then, I thought about my audience. What if someone from my class was nearby in the parking lot and noticed my carelessness? What if that would taint their impression of me before the class even started? I didn’t want to take the chance, so I took the time to straighten out the car.
Coincidentally the class was all about Personality Styles and the DiSC Profile. Each one of them had taken the assessment and were eager to learn their results. I got the brilliant idea of using my parking lot story to illustrate differences between the styles.
I described my experience, including why I took the time to straighten out the car. I knew my group would be made up of analytical folks who value quality and accuracy and didn’t want to ruin my credibility even before the class started.
I said, “I didn’t want any of you thinking I was some kind of nut if you saw me parking my car that way.”
Sure enough, the head nurse spoke up. “I saw you out there and at first I did think you were crazy. I felt better about your abilities when I saw you come into class because you had moved your car. But if you hadn’t parked it differently, I would have thought this was going to be a total waste of my day.”
She assumed my lack of accuracy in the parking lot would transfer to the classroom. Thankfully I had redeemed myself!
The Moral of the Story
I cared more about making a good impression with my audience than being accurate. I couldn’t have cared less if my car was crooked. But I DID care about the participants and their assessment of my skills. Their ability to have a great learning experience was of primary concern.
We often judge people by their ability to excel in areas WE define as strengths. We will evaluate them more favorably if they possess the same primary traits we do. Likewise, we may not cut them a lot of slack if they lack that trait. While it makes sense for teams to be made up of people with differing strengths, the reality is, we judge success based on skills we value and possess.
Those medical folks expected me to be knowledgeable, accurate and credible. If I couldn’t show up that way, it would have impacted their willingness to accept what I had to say. They might have tuned me out from the start and also questioned their assessment results.
To clarify, it’s not that I can’t be accurate and focused on quality in my work (or even loading the dishwasher), but when push comes to shove, there are some things that are MORE important to me, such as interpersonal communication. That’s what drives me most of the time. What drives my husband, the engineer, is process and purpose.
How to Tell What Drives You
- It is a strength that matters to us and a skill we want to be recognized for
- It motivates us to do the things we do
- It is the basis of how we judge ourselves and others
- It’s a personal trait we take pride in more so than others
- And while we possess degrees of all four behavioral styles, there’s usually one that takes precedence and another one we see as a weakness.
It doesn’t make us right or wrong to have a certain personality style, although it can have an impact on our relationships and success at work. It comes down to “fit” and whether we are motivated enough to adapt to others or the environment.
In the next four posts, I’ll explore each one of these personality styles so you can figure out what makes you tick. You’ll learn more about whether you’re in the right job or why you experience stress. Together we’ll explore how to better understand others.
I’ll share with you everything I’ve ever learned about personality styles — and all for free! Woohoo! Just promise you won’t hold it against me if I park creatively!