Imagine you’re a highly-focused software engineer. Detail-oriented, concerned primarily with getting the job done right. At times, others might be a little frustrated with your cautious approach, but the end product is invariably of high quality. You can’t stand interruptions, noise, and useless chatter.
Then somebody from sales comes over and sits down right next to your cubicle. Not only are they loud, but they don’t know- and apparently don’t seem to care- that their stories are disturbing the entire work group. As the noise and the laughter pierce your brain, you hunker down even more, ignoring the sales guy. It’s nearly impossible to concentrate, and as a result you may make mistakes. For you that’s a major problem.
That’s completely unacceptable. The sales guy doesn’t care. He’s still trying to get you to listen to what happened this past weekend. It’s hilarious!!!
No. It isn’t. It’s invasive, annoying, and affecting your work quality. But you continue to do your level best to concentrate over the guy’s noise. If you have to tolerate this too much more, you’re going to contact your recruiter.
The sales guy, on the other hand, is going out of his mind. Stuck in a back office with menial, boring, repetitive tasks, he’s dying for interaction. If I have to back there and spend another eight hours on reports, I’m going to quit tomorrow, he thinks. He’s a top performer, but his boss has been handing over maddeningly mindless responsibilities that have nothing to do with sales- at least in his opinion. I’m wasting my time here.
Two offices down along the edge of the building, an employee is having a tiff with one of the senior managers.
“You need to plan the company picnic,” the manager says. “It’s key to morale. I’ll give you last year’s program, and you can use that as a guideline. Make sure you talk to everyone about what kinds of food they want and their favorite activities. We want everyone involved.”
The young man balks. “I have deadlines,” he argues. “I don’t have the time to go around and talk to every single person in the department. I won’t make my goals. That’s going to make me look bad.”
“This is for the entire department,” the manager argues back. “If people aren’t happy, they aren’t going to work hard. You need to think about the larger needs of the company.”
The young man scowls, takes the paperwork and resentfully leaves her office. This ridiculous chore is an incredible waste of time, he thinks. She doesn’t realize how important my work is to the department.
The manager closes the door of her office. I hate this job, she thinks. Two months previously she was promoted out of her job as a team member, which she loved. Surrounded by people she knew well and respected, she now operates solo. She’s four states away from her friends. Isolated in her office all day, she misses the comfort, safety and routine of her team responsibilities. She’s already thinking about putting her resume together.
Hire Smart and Manage Well=High Productivity
Every day in companies everywhere, people end up angry, or they leave companies because they are placed in the wrong position for their natural gifts. When we hire people, part of our responsibility is to ensure that our employees land where they will bloom. That’s how we get their best work.
The famed psychologist Carl Jung developed what would become the basis for personality archetypes. Those basic archetypes inform the many versions of styles training that we see today: DISC, Social Styles, Myers-Briggs and many others. The London-based training company Speak First (https://www.speak-first.com/)divides those archetypes into animals: Owl, Lion, Monkey and Horse, which makes remembering each style much easier.
Being able to recognize each style, understand their work preferences and place them in conditions that allow them to maximize their best preferences is part of a manager’s job. That begins with hiring appropriately for each position, and understanding the work preferences of each style. A bad fit means poor work, resentment and guaranteed turnover.
For example, in the situations above, our software engineer is an Owl: detail oriented, works best alone where he can concentrate on the minutae, quiet, focused, and superb at ensuring that everything is done right. Loud, talkative people are a bane to his existence.
The salesman, on the other hand, is a Monkey. Energetic, enthusiastic, superb at connecting with people, they are perfect for sales, public relations, marketing. They are the company party, and they have a very high need for applause and recognition. Isolating them in a back room with menial tasks drives them insane.
Our manager above, is a Horse, concerned with the welfare and happiness of her entire department. Her desire to have a company picnic is part of how she ensures a welcoming and happy atmosphere for her group. A great listener, she’s primarily interested in whether people are happy at work. When she was promoted to manager and moved away from her beloved team, it wasn’t a gift. If anything, she misses her “herd” more every day. She would like her new job a lot better if it were designed in such a way to allow her far more interaction rather than being stuck in her office most of the time.
The young man our manager has assigned the picnic to is a Lion. With a strong ego and need to achieve, he is impatient about other’s needs, when they don’t coincide with his own. Motivated by getting his goals accomplished, the time-consuming process of engaging everyone else can be a burden. He feels out of control of his own destiny when asked to do tasks that he believes sucks time away from achieving his goals. Focused far more on the task at hand, people’s feelings and emotions sometimes get in the way, as far as he’s concerned. He plans to run the whole department one day.
Each of these people has particular likes, dislikes and strong tendencies. When folks like the Owl and Lion get stuck having to deal too much with people and feelings, their work satisfaction can plummet. Horses and Monkeys feed off other’s energy and happiness, but for different reasons.
Understanding what these style archetypes prefer is a huge part of the hiring process. When we develop a job description, the duties will tell us what kind of person will thrive in that position. When we’re interviewing we’re looking for like tendencies. The same thing happens when we move, promote, and place people in their work stations.
A perfect example of a classic promotion mistake is to put a superb salesperson in charge of a sales team. As someone who has trained sales for decades, I see this mistake all the time. A terrific individual contributor, your salesperson loved her job, her achievements, her perks and all the applause she got for nailing the whale clients. Suddenly now she’s a baby sitter for ten salespeople. This is not her primary skill set. As a born storyteller, she isn’t all that interested in their issues, problems and stories. She wants to tell hers around the donut box just like she used to. Now she’s stuck doing administrative duties which she despises, and she’s no longer in the field selling, which is her greatest gift to the company. She loves the title, hates the job.
Archetypes are guidelines. None of us is locked in stone, and one of the demands of good employees is to learn to stretch and adapt. However, if that employee is simply not in the right position, no amount of coaching is going to help them make fundamental changes to who they are. To wit: as someone who is a combination Monkey/Horse, I thrive on audiences and relationships. The Army, in all its wisdom, assigned me to be an administration office shortly after I graduated from Officer’s Candidate School. I was isolated in a small dusty office, and given reams of paper to review and assess. I went out of my mind in a week and failed horribly at the job. I did my level best, but I was miserably mis-assigned. My commanding officer wasn’t pleased, but I got moved to the television studio, where I flourished and succeeded.
If you’ve got people whose performance has just plummeted, or have noticed that your new hire isn’t adjusting, it may well be that they’re not a fit for the position. Or, by promoting someone into a new role, you might have taken them out of the perfect spot and into a new role for which they are neither suited nor do they enjoy. This is how we lose good people.
The best managers take the time to consider personality archetypes when they hire, and they also ensure that the working environment allows each of those styles to maximize their gifts. This way our people feel valued, are able to put their best skills to work, and everyone wins.