Knowing Your Type: Goals, Relationships, or Big Ideas

It Takes All Types

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. T

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

Everyone tended to have one of these traits dominate more than the other two.

When we 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” –

I don’t think it necessarily takes a quiz to determine which of these three traits anyone may lean towards. Perhaps only considering your preferred work style will suffice. Let’s take a look at each of these 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 get to know a person you are going to work with, this might be 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. While the details may be important to this personality type, this personality type really wants 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 and not “down in the weeds.” Sound like you perhaps?

Making Use of This Insight

Seeing that I was a goal oriented type didn’t surprise me. What was more powerful 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 an item assigned to be worked on 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 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 this dominant trait.

I also needed to make time to let the big idea folks have their say. If I was sure to outline how the tasks and goals I was eager to get working on would support the longer range vision, I got their buy in and made sure their voices were heard. These personality types tend to be the true leaders or oversees of many organizations — it’s where their skills are most useful frequently.

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 will not be as successful as a team that includes a mix of each – so long as that team also acknowledges and respects the strengths of each 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

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