Posts Tagged ‘social style’

So, you think you have either an “A” or “B” type personality?

“I know nothing more annoying when people I don’t know jump to conclusions on my person based on nothing but gossip or speculation.”                                                                                                                                    ~ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, actor, producer and screenwriter


I’m no fan of the simplicity of using the either A or B personality formula.  It is not very academic or scientific.  A and B type personality assessments were intended to determine the likelihood of a person having a coronary.  You can look it up.

It is a poor tool for determining overall temperament, character analysis, social style, or general personality.  Unfortunately, in the business world, it has been used as a screening tool, with an assumption of some iron-clad rule that one type is more likely to succeed than the other, and that the template works the same for all jobs in all industries.  That would be not only incorrect, it would be foolish.  Here’s your real A/B:

“One group of people believes everything can be divided into one of two groups.  The other group of people doesn’t.”

Never treat supposition as fact.  That would be no more scientific than using a coin toss to make all important decisions.  Also, be cautious of the risk of falling prey to illogical deductive reasoning:

“All safe motorcycles have at least two good wheels.  My lawnmower has at least two good wheels.  Therefore, my lawnmower is a safe motorcycle.” 

That’s right, factual perhaps in the statements, but the conclusion is ludicrous; not very scientific at all.  So, if it isn’t scientific, what is it?  Emotional?  Well?  Don’t most people make decisions because of what they feel more than by what they think?  Yes, they do.

A good example of the is when a person buys a car.  No matter how analytical they thought they were during the process, the decision to buy is ALWAYS an emotional one.  The only plausible argument with that would be that what you are feeling does go through your mind.

Most people who try to measure behavioral qualities of other people by using generalized cookie cutter templates might find some of the erroneous conclusions they will draw to become problematic; even harmful.  This mistake is also a common occurrence with self-assessments, too.

When a person reads a profile of themselves they like, and considers it flattering, they will want to believe it true whether it was in the astrology section of todays newspaper, or a fortune cookie.  Believing such things allows thinking to not seem so necessary.  And people do prefer a set of beliefs far more than they do the idea of having to logically analyze empirical evidence, or even look for it.  Modern psychology has come up with much better tools, but using them does require some thought and effort.

Look at people as individuals instead of using some presuppositional tool to put labels on them.  Folks are likely to resent labels, especially if they believe they came by superficial means.  Don’t forget about the times you have felt you were judged incorrectly or wrongly by someone who was obviously being prejudicial.

So it is with that in mind that I ask you to please be cautious about using any simplistic template where any of the descriptive labels used will be seen by the people you are “judging” as judgmental. When they discover what you’ve concluded or said, it is very likely to come across to them as unfairly critical, narrow-minded, condescending, or possibly rude if not mean-spirited.

Some folks prefer simple explanations, or at least the appearance of them.  By that measure, they will think this A/B tool is wonderful.  Those go for the simplicity of it are likely to quickly pack it away in their toolbox along with the other belief disorders they have collected over the years.  And that toolbox usually holds things folks have learned to believe on their own by jumping to conclusions, or have been taught to believe in accordance with the leap some other person or persons want you to take.

But as I’ve said before, what people believe to be true to in fact be true, is not now, nor has it eve been required.  But be careful when it come to challenging what other people insist they believe.  They might attack you, or even kill you if they feel it necessary to, not so much for themselves personally, but that their beliefs be kept safe.  For without ideology, idiotic or otherwise, you cannot have war.

Motivation – The Business of Theater, and The Theater of Business: an Introduction

In theater, every action that takes place on stage during a performance is called a piece of business.  What is it about that particular character that matches up with that particular kind of behavior?  Not just what they do, but why they do it.

Character analysis is an important part of the process of developing the story.  Once the audience, the co-worker, or customer gets a read on the character, they begin to react as soon as that person walks onto the stage.  On “Seinfeld”, as soon as Kramer would come sliding into the room, the audience started laughing.

Our actions tell a story, and sooner or later, someone is watching our performance.  But it’s what is behind the performance; the motivation that drives it that is the important business of theater, and the critical theater of business.  That’s not just a play on words.

The quality of the performance is always judged by the audience, your co-workers, or your customers, isn’t it?  Those who work on improving skills in this area can expect to see improved performance in their business of theater, or their theater of business.  Those who ignore it can expect a poorer quality of performance than might be desirable.  Here’s why.

When your performance, or someone else’s performance is less than desirable, when you’re not getting what you want, or not being treated the way you want to be treated, you’ll feel some tension, won’t you?  Sometimes the stress is subtle, and just it slows you down.  But at other times, you feel you’ve hit a brick wall.

When we run into a wall, we tend to fall back a bit, right?  What does a three year old do when the ice cream falls off the spoon and onto the floor?  Cry?  Scream?  Yell?  Oh, yes!  A three year old doesn’t think about what they may have done to cause the problem.  They just want somebody to fix it.  Their behavior is reactionary.

Most folks don’t even recognize their own primary fallback behaviors under stress, but others will see it if they pay attention.  But just because they see it, doesn’t mean they’ll read it correctly.  In their minds they might be trying to figure out what would provoke them to act in such a way, or worse, judge it to mean something that isn’t true.  And it is for this reason more than anything else, that I would want to share with you the tools of character analysis.

Whether interpreted correctly or not, in the theater of business, there are serious risk factors associated with people reacting under stress.  And if the stress doesn’t go away, the fallback behaviors could develop into a whole series of reactionary behaviors that are even harder to accept, and things could get worse.

Besides affecting individual performance, it can lead to undermining entire systems.  When stories of failures make the news, such as Enron, Arthur Andersen, Lehman Brothers, and others, it often seems that the breakdown in equity was prevalent in the practices of leadership.

In each case, by the end game, all kinds of things had started to go wrong, and lots of bad decisions, spurred by stressful and emotional decisions, lead to a series of reactionary behaviors that brought the house down.  And these are not isolated incidences in human history.  It happens a lot more often than we might be aware of.  Perhaps it was that very regular bit of human nature that lead George Bernard Shaw to say:

“We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.”

But we can if we want to; if we’ll do what it takes.  The same tools I’d use for character analysis also apply to real people in real situations.  In fact, that’s what they were designed for.  There are several models used to identify temperament, style, and personal motivation which serves to point out predictable behaviors, and methods of modifying them.  More importantly, it needs to be done without judgmental adjectives and negative profiling, but from a more neutral perspective that aids and encourages understanding.  Perhaps that is the hardest lesson to learn when dealing with yourself, or profiles of real people you know.

I want you to think about Elvis Presley, Madonna, Dwight Eisenhower, General George Patton, Mohandas Gandhi, Adolf Hitler,  John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and Mikail Gorbachev.  While each of them displayed quite different personalities from each other, there is one word that has often been used to describe them all: “charisma.”

I speak of charisma as that very compelling talent or attractiveness that would cause others to feel inspired, and want to follow, or in some cases, be like you.  In the story of Joan of Arc, the soldiers didn’t just march along in compliance to military rule, they were committed, and even willing to die for her.

Charisma seems like such an intangible thing, and it’s as if some have it, and some don’t.  But the fact is that it can be defined another way: the ability to get others to want to help you reach your goals, while at the same time, feeling doing so helps them reach theirs.  It means you’ve connected with them.  It means you’re versatile enough to show, and receive empathy from a lot of different kinds of people.

Think of what it would mean to you if your people believe that the “what’s in it for them” is right up there with the “what’s in it for you”.  And, think of what it means to you if they don’t.

That last definition of charisma, having others want to help you reach their goals, while reaching theirs also defines “Equitable Leadership”, because that’s exactly what it is.  When used in workshops, people come away with a better understanding of why people are treated the way they are, and have a much better handle on what other people’s behavior shows how they wish to be treated.

As  leaders, it’s important that we learn how to be open and honest with ourselves and others.  Sometimes when we’re not, the most important person we’re trying to deceive is ourself.  We loose sight of the simple reality that it’s okay to be who we are.

It’s sad to see a person spend their entire life trying to be someone they are not because they think that is the only way to be worthy.  And that can lead to becoming a tragic character.  In drama, what makes a tragic flaw so tragic is that the character often doesn’t recognize it as a flaw.

I’ve enjoyed using a number of assessment tools, but prefer a social style matrix because in addition to being quite valid, it helps me identify conflict and controversy issues by fallback behaviors quicker.  This feature alone makes it very helpful for people in team situations.

But don’t presume they are carved in stone.  In fact, social styles and temperament type indicators are primarily valid within the culture they are observed, and at the time they are taken, though some psychologists have disagreed (especially when their income depends on the particular model they’re selling).  But as Abraham Maslow said:

“He that is good with a hammer (and only has a hammer) tends to think everything is (and sees every problem as) a nail.” 

So, it is reasonable to advise you not to read too much into the assessment.  Everyone needs to remember that your social style or temperament type is never as inflexible as your blood type, no matter how certain you are of its accuracy.  But don’t read too little, either.  Some folks just latch on to some single point about their profile or type, and run with it. It could be like running with scissors. Introversion/extroversion, thinking/feeling – none of these by themselves will give you as clear a picture as you might get by looking at all of it.  And additionally, without the feedback about one being seen as more or less assertive, as well as more or less emotionally controlled as seen within a specified group, it can be quite misleading.

Another thought about a variance between how we’re “wired” and how we behave would be the impact of knowing.  Once a person has been made aware of certain strengths and weaknesses, even if so categorized in their own minds, they will begin to apply them to areas where they can leverage a benefit, or avoid something they personally don’t want.  In some situations, what a person subconsciously wishes to avoid or fears becomes much more powerful than some consciously stated desire or objective.  Recognizing that goes a long way towards understanding how politics manipulates the minds of phobic people.

Once made aware of what these perceptions can and do influence, along with the kinds of behaviors that indicate them, a process of behavior modification can begin.  Or, they are certainly at least likely to think about it far more than it would be expected without such feedback.

So, for the person who behaves significantly different than you might expect them due to temperament, look a little deeper to the motivation behind why they might be wearing a mask.  I’m not talking about, or in any way encouraging deception.  What I’m talking about is how a person chooses to present themselves. Perhaps they do so in such a way in order to connect with, and show empathy to others within their work culture and environment.  What might otherwise be seen as fickle, false or insincere behavior from an overly critical or judgmental point of view, might be a sign of adaptability.  And that ability, be it skill or talent, is the principal trait for survival, according to Darwin.

But that being said, I do caution you not to be fake or insincere, or you’ll get caught (unless you’re a clever sociopath).  As any seriously trained actor can tell you, there’s a lot of difference between “pretending” (at the risk of been seen as pretentious), and acting–which includes understanding the motivation well enough to conduct the business in an efficient, and believable manner.  The business of theater is the motivation.  And far more than most people realize, the theater of business is also the motivation.