Have you ever wondered why your co-workers are so strange? Why is that one person’s desk is neat as a pin, yet her co-workers is a total mess? The language of temperament helps us to understand the ‘why’ of our co-workers’ weird and wonderful behaviours. Temperament, and in particular the Personality Dimensions® model, gives us a common language to speak in the workplace, which helps us predict such things as how people learn, lead others, socialize, manage their accounts and overall relate to one another. Personality Dimensions® gives us a common language to help us understand ourselves, value the gifts that others bring to work, and in general if used positively – can expand and enhance our ability to communicate more effectively.
The study of temperament goes back 25 centuries to Hippocrates, who identified four ‘humours’, which were at that time related to bodily fluids. More contemporary theorists attribute the four temperaments to how our brains are hard wired at birth. David Keirsey, in his book “Please understand me.” First published in 1984, described four temperaments as ‘intelligent roles’, based upon how we use words (communication) and how we use tools (how we behave). Keirsey studied people in his practice for over 40 years – his theory stands the test of time and had been adapted to many different models, including Personality Dimensions®; created by the Canadian company Career Life Skills in 2003.
In the workplace, Personality Dimensions® can be used in a number of different applications, such as; team building, communication, leadership and coaching. As a former team leader with 35 direct reports, I used Personality Dimensions® to support my employees in their development plans, and to customize coaching plans for them. Having this common understanding between team leader and employee gives you a reference point to start any conversation. Is it a magic bullet? No! Its Just another tool for busy managers to use to help you be more effective and to ‘manoeuvre’ around the people mine fields. Also, knowing your own work and communication style can help you to adapt and adopt different styles to be more successful in your daily interactions.
What do the Four Temperaments look like at work? (Personality Dimensions® uses four colours to represent the temperaments)
Authentic Blues® – can be recognised by their open communication style, they are natural catalysts – ‘people people’. They will facilitate team cohesiveness and can be very sensitive to conflict or criticism of self or others. Blues may take things too personally and suffer stress as a result. What to look for… A desk full of Self Development Quotes, casual and open.
Inquiring Greens® – can be recognised as the logical thinkers who ask a lot of questions, they need to be seen as confident and competent by self and others. They are future thinkers and may get a bad rap for ‘raining on the parade’. What to look for… A desk with lots of books for research, models, it may look like a mad scientist lives there.
Organized Golds® – can be recognised as being the punctual, dependable, reliable employee. They have a strong sense of what’s right or wrong – they will uphold organizational rules and procedures. Some can see them as resistant to change. They just need to know the ‘why’. What to look for… The name says it all! An organized and neat desk – everything in its place –even the family photos.
Resourceful Oranges® – can be recognised by their independence and ability to multi task and troubleshoot a crisis. They will be looking for the next challenge, and get quickly bored if there is not one, they may even create one to compete with themselves and others. They can be blunt, and may say what they see. Freedom and independence in work is critical to the Orange. What to look for… Desk? What desk?
Add to this mix the element of Introversion/Extraversion, and this adds another layer of complexity to human behaviour at work. Extraverts take their energy from outer stimulation, Introverts from Inner stimulation. Extraverts may get into trouble by speaking too much at meetings or by blurting out an idea before it has been formulated – it’s how they think (out loud). Introverts may get into trouble by not speaking enough, getting a bad rap for holding back ideas or information. They are often just not ready to let go of the idea, or may think they have expressed it and have not.
All of us as leaders have blind spots about our own behaviour – we can all get tripped up with human dynamics. Wouldn’t it be great if you had one tool that could give you a ‘coles notes’ insight into the behaviour of others and yourself? Personality Dimensions® is a one model that can do this.
Managers and team leaders must often lead employees through some difficult changes, it may be office closures, downsizing, staff cuts or just new directions and policies. Even the stress of performance reviews can be minimized, if you are aware of the employee’s personality style.
I remember the first performance review I ever delivered; the employee was a Gold/Blue. (Let’s call her Donna) I had been warned by her former managers that Donna was difficult and would probably cry if given any criticism. Donna also had a reputation with staff as being a bit impatient, yet she really knew her stuff and when tackling a problem, went at it until solved. I went in with a plan to praise her for the great job she had done on a project we worked on together, praising her for her great organizational and tactical abilities. We did talk about her tendency to be impatient with some and came up with a plan to deal with this (really this was about Donna being interrupted while working on a problem). Donna did cry at the end of her performance review, but his time for good reason – she said that for the first time ever, she felt someone ‘got her’. Donna became one of the most productive, motivated and engaged employees on my team.
This stuff works! Imagine a team of employees who feel/think that they can bring their whole selves to work, that their innate talents and skills be honoured? It’s a workplace that everyone aspires to, yet for most it is still elusive. Personality Dimensions® cannot solve every human relations issue, but it can help teams understand each other, promote diversity and co-operation and minimize stressful workplace issues. Personality Dimensions® can be used for coaching, team dynamics, leadership, customer service, sales and personal development.
Irene Anderson is a professional coach, author speaker – current president of OAAPT (Ontario Association for the Application of Personality Type), Personality Dimensions® certified trainer (Level One and Two), MBTI®, Interstrength® certified, director of DiscoveryWORKS! Coaching and Training.