When Personalities Walk into a Meeting
I think it was hour three into my Topgrading interview for my coaching position at Rhythm Systems when my McQuaig personality results were pulled out for analysis. Even though I’ve facilitated umpteen leadership workshops and authoritatively explained how our personality remains constant barring outlying traumatic factors, I was worried my neuroticism score may have hit an all-time high and would take me out of the running to be a level-headed, calming influence on my clients.
They’ll worry I’ll be a pool of sweat and/or tears as I coach with my heart practically beating off of my sleeve. Speaking of sweat...it’s already been three hours. My neuroticism is going to sweat out of my suit at any minute.
It turns out, the McQuaig portrayed the same patterns I’ve always possessed, but, with different labels: I’m still extremely social (extraversion), quite driven (dominant), somewhat restless (neuroticism), highly accepting (agreeableness), and not an avid fan of structure (conscientiousness). Exhale.
Circumstances I’d faced in my professional life didn’t change my inherent personality; however, I altered my behaviors to cope with or dilute my natural tendencies. My belief that I was more neurotic, more dominant, less agreeable, and more conscientious than before stemmed from promotions in recent years where I was no longer an individual contributor but, leading a team and then leading a practice. I wasn’t worried about my extraversion score changing as that was my political survival tool and lifeline to my relationships. As my roles changed, I learned to speak my mind in the face of conflict, make decisions knowing the implications to my team, and stay organized enough to climb to the tippy top. These were not natural things for me to do, and I eventually felt as though I was burning out.
I’ve been McQuaig-ed, Myers Brigg-ed (ENFP), DISC-ed (I), Big Five-d, and these are just the ones I remember. These assessments all paint the picture of Liz and help to bring me back to my core of who I naturally am. I’m self-aware and am truly aligned to a role best suited for me. Granted, I still have J or C envy, depending on the inventory, and wish I could naturally be organized. It’s hard being me. It’s harder being my spouse, I’m sure. That doesn’t mean I’m going to miss a few meetings and get lazy with deadlines; it means I have to find tools and ways that work best for me in order to compensate for my gypsy, free-fall way through life.
Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing an executive team using their McQuaig results to guide discussions throughout their quarterly planning session. Before we dug into the nitty gritty, the team shared each other’s results and sought to understand where each other is coming from. This set the tone for the rest of the meeting and provided a tool for the members to call out – either directly or with good humor – times when they suspected they were dominating the conversation, weren’t feeling heard or wanted to probe with countless questions. They would use their own results as a way to transform perceptions of their behavior into the inner workings of what’s really going on with insights like these:
“I know I come off as abrupt at times; but, as you can see, I get frustrated with lack of responsiveness. I need more input from the team.”
“I’m guilty of not being responsive because as you can see from my results, I need more data.”
“I had my presentation ready; but, I read John’s results and decided to delete that last slide where I offer solutions. Instead, let’s open this up for brainstorming.”
“I need to be more diplomatic in front of certain audiences.”
“What do you need from me?"
“How can I better support you?”
Witnessing this interaction was confirmation to me that no longer are personality profiles being tossed aside as “touchy feely soft stuff;” rather, they have a legitimate and powerful place at the interview and team planning table. When personalities walk into a meeting, perceptions melt away and real conversations begin. If you have an opportunity to enrich discussions by assessing your team’s personality before the next quarter’s planning meeting, I encourage you to do so.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go wipe away my neurotic tears as I’m running up against the deadline to post my blog.