It Takes All Types – Know Yours

Many years ago I was on a leadership committee where we took a self-assessment quiz to examine which of three different personality traits we might favor.

The three areas were –

  • Relationship seeking,
  • Goal oriented, and
  • “Big Idea” oriented.

Everyone tended to have one of these traits dominate the other two, and I suppose it is possible to be strong in two or even equally divided. My experience sharing this with others however is that it is more likely you’ll have one area be stronger than the other two.

When the leadership team revealed our quiz scores with one another, no one argued with the findings; we could all agree that the quiz had correctly identified the dominant trait of these three possibilities in each of us and could even predict where each other would fall. It was actually easy to guess how some other committee members would be identified. We knew one another well, and at times not everyone got along. Truthfully, the disharmony in our group was the reason for doing the self-assessment.

I was reminded of this test in the leadership committee while reading an article in the Harvard Business Review. “What Kind of Thinker Are You?” offers similar insights as the test I took years before. The HBR article can perhaps best be summarized by my graphic below and asking you to determine where you fit on the scales of “orientation” and “focus” –

It’s a similar concept to the self assessment I took many years ago but with more options and subtext. I worry about labels and connotations that are often associated with these terms but really all are positive in their own way and none are put downs.

I don’t think it necessarily takes a quiz to determine which of these traits anyone may lean towards. Perhaps only considering your preferred work style will suffice. Take a look at the three traits from my leadership committee quiz more deeply and consider which might be your dominant trait or traits.

Relationship Seeking

Are you the person who brings food or snacks to meetings? Do you want to stay after and chat with people? Might you be more of a “people person” and extroverted? If it matters to you to really get to know a person you are going to work with, this might be the trait you identify with most.

Goal Oriented

Are you someone who perhaps would rather skip the introductions at meetings and get right to the agenda items? Do you tend to be the person who writes the agenda for the meeting? Goal oriented people are looking for the tasks to be identified and the work that needs to be done first and foremost – they skip the chit chat and want to talk specifics about the work. For this personality type, they’re eager to just identify the task at hand. (This would be me, and also my wife.)

The “Big Idea” People

Perhaps you’re the person who is always talking about what direction the group or company needs to be headed in; you’re a planner and like to consider the mission statement. While the details may be important to this personality type, people of this type really want to discuss the long-range plans and vision for the group. This is the person who likes to be at the 30,000 foot level first and foremost and not get “down in the weeds.”

Making Use of This Insight

Seeing that I was a goal oriented type didn’t surprise me. What was more powerful and helpful to me was realizing how the other people on the committee worked, and more importantly, what their needs were. My desires to always jump to a task list and get work assigned really trampled on the other two personality types — especially the relationship seeking members of the committee who wanted to establish (or re-establish) personal connections first.

Slowing down, holding back on my own desires and making sure that I had connected personally with the relationship seeking types and made room for voicing how the tasks connected to our long range plans would make for a much more productive meeting in the long run. If I (continued) to fail to do such relationship building, I would only turn away these fellow committee members with these other traits.

If I was able to outline how the tasks and goals I was eager to get working on would support the longer range vision, I got the buy in of the “Big Picture” folks and made sure their voices were heard. These personality types tend to be the true leaders of many organizations — it’s where their skills are frequently most useful.

For me, learning to listen more and talk less is a lesson I have to keep close at hand.

While each of these types of people can have conflict with the other desired work styles, a team of nothing but one of these three traits will not be as successful as a team that includes a mix of each. That is, so long as that team also acknowledges and respects the strengths of each other type.  

Once I was aware of these traits and the role I played, I could also better see the need to accommodate the other two types, and at times, be the person to help make sure each of the three personality types was empowered during the meeting or project. We had far less conflict as a group after doing this self-assessment and discovery.

The next time you have a group project to do, consider these three traits and how you can make time for each to shine. You’ll have a better outcome if you do.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash