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Knowing Me, Knowing You.

Did you ever wish that colleagues came with instructions?

Understanding why people do what they do and say what they say can be really baffling at times.

As individuals we are a complexity of emotions, experiences, and thoughts. All of which accompany us to work each day and influence our behaviour and impact our performance.

We cannot divorce the personality from the person, but understanding what is going on inside an individual’s head can make working with them more productive and less stressful for everyone involved.

Vive la difference

No two people see the world the same way and while variety may be the spice of life, managing variety can be challenging.

How we see the world is influenced by a variety of factors, the most prominent of which is personality. Personality as it manifests itself in behaviour, is a collection of programmed responses to outside stimuli. Personality is innate – it is part of our internal make up and it dictates our natural behavioural tendencies. It does not necessarily reflect our actual behaviour. As individuals of free choice and learning we can choose alternative behaviour, hence the benefit of learning and development on the topic.

Can we really measure personality?

Disclaimer – I am neither a psychologist nor an academic. However, I have studied and coached in this area for a long time and I would like to share with you a framework for understanding personality which has been useful to me in my career, and which may help you. As with all frameworks, the purpose is not to precisely describe reality, but to be useful in navigating it.

Today many profiling frameworks are based on a common grouping of personality traits into four factors:

Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness. ( Science behind DiSC® - DiSC Profile)

The Dominance factor relates to control, power and assertiveness.

Influence relates to an individual’s approach to social situations and their style of communication.

Steadiness is the factor of patience, persistence, and thoughtfulness.

Conscientiousness describes a person’s approach to structure and organisation.

No factor is better or worse than another. It simply indicates a style of behaviour, and each style has its own inherent strengths and weaknesses. We all have some element of each, but we will have a natural preference for some over others.

Those high on dominance, when at their best, provide us with qualities such as leadership, action and decisiveness. But at their worst they can be arrogant, domineering, and opinionated.

Individuals high on influence are the ‘people person’. They are sociable, outgoing and love to be loved by those around them. On a good day, they bring enthusiasm, creativity, and friendliness to the workplace. On a bad day, they can lose interest easily, be poor planners and avoid confrontation at all costs.

The individual with a high level of steadiness brings security, loyalty, and harmony to the situation. As a strong team player, they provide objectivity and cohesion to get things done. However, they may have a tendency to resist change, lack enthusiasm and take difficulties very personally.

The individual with a high level of conscientiousness brings thoroughness, precision and quality to the workplace. However, their desire to do things the ‘right’ way may see them caught up in detail at the expense of the bigger task at hand.

Putting people into ‘boxes’

Of course, we should never pinhole people into boxes.

But that’s what we are going to do right now!

Below is a summary of each of the key personality types and how they manifest themselves in a ‘pure breed’ of the type. Let’s give them names so they feel human. Imagine that they form part of a new project team at work.

Alex – high on Dominance

Chris– high on Conscientiousness

Leslie – high on Influence

Frankie– high on Social

The value in this is that we now see how our team of four is motivated and we start to understand why they behave as they behave.

This is what our gang of four looks like on a good day - when we see the best of them, and on a bad day – when they exhibit all their worst traits.

These may be extremes – but let’s be honest – we all recognise ourselves and others in these boxes.

If it were a card game, we could have great fun playing snap with our friends, colleagues, partners, and family. In fact, we had something just like this in a company that I worked in earlier in my career. As part of a leadership development programme, we all undertook personality profiling and shared within our teams our ‘type’ – we had badges that we wore to let others understand our behavioural types and how to best work with us.

Now, I wasn’t a big fan of the ‘labels’ but I found the concept very valuable. That colleague that I found opinionated and cold, I now understood that they were focused on getting the job done and less interested in the chit chat. Those that seemed to ‘waffle on ‘and not make a decision, just liked to think aloud and share their views with others. The boring detailed people that frustrated me were the ones that made sure that not only did we do the right thing, but that we did it right.

So – a question for you - four friends in a car heading off on a driving trip:

Who takes the keys and drives?

Alex – literally and metaphorically likes to be in the driving seat.

Who has the map out, sat nav consulted and mileage worked out?

Chris – loves to have a plan and work the plan.

Who makes sure we have our seat belt on, are comfy in our seat and have enough to eat?

Frankie – always looking out for others and ensuring that no one falls out – literally or metaphorically.

Who starts the singing?

Leslie – sure it would be no fun without a song and a bit of banter!

Knowing me, knowing you – what to do?

It’s one thing to know more about the other person and how they see the world, it’s another thing to do something about it. It’s about adapting how we behave to bring out the best in the other person. To make it easy for them to work with us, for us to flex and bend our style.

If you are an Alex or a Leslie, then you like to work at pace. If you are working with a Frankie or a Chris, then you need to slow the pace and take time discussing things and getting their input and feedback. Let them reflect on things and maybe let them talk to others before looking for an answer.

Chris and Alex, they like facts and focus on tasks. So, if you are a Leslie or a Frankie, remember this when working with them.

If you are a Leslie or a Frankie, you like the people side of the business. You are social. But don’t over do it when working with Chris and Alex. Keep the small talk to a minimum and make sure that your social time with colleagues doesn’t get in the way of getting the job done.

‘Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself’.

Well, actually, no.

Treat others as they would like to be treated. Speak their communication style and see the relationship strengthen. This is not about changing you or your personality. It is simply about flexing our style to better communicate with another person. Here are some top line tips that might help when working with each of the different styles.

Remember - no one is a full pure breed of just one type. We all have a blend. We can all adapt and indeed do as the situation requires. As Chris progresses in the organisation and takes on responsibilities such as leading a team, they will need to quicken their pace and be more decisive. Alex with their focus on achievement and getting things done will need to be more social to ensure that the team in on board. Leslie with their charismatic style needs to ensure that things get done and results are achieved.


‘We hire people for their skills, but the whole person shows up for work’.

I always loved this quote from the management guru Chester Barnard. Getting to know our colleagues, understanding how they like to work, not just what they do, is the way to build meaningful and productive relationships at work.

Until next time – thanks for reading.


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