Don't miss the Disney movie Frozen. The movie is a joyful modern fairy tale, with gorgeous Broadway-style music, amazing voices, and yes, powerful lessons of engagement and leadership.
First, a brief synopsis of the story: Young princess Elza's magical powers allow her to create winter at will. Elza and her sister Anna have a lot of fun with Elza's magic - what child wouldn't like to instantly create enough snow and cold to build snowmen, play with snow angels, or ice skate? One day, however, Elza accidentally hurts Anna. After that incident, Elza becomes desperately afraid to hurt others. She refuses her sister's friendship, hides in her room and wears gloves when in public.
When Elza's parents die, she becomes the Queen of the land - and must, at least for one day, show her face to the world. During that day, people discover Elza's magical powers. Elza now has nothing else to lose and realizes that she can "let go" of secrets and lies. If you haven't seen the movie, watch this one scene below.
Like Elza, we all have special powers. Some are able to plan and follow their plans to a "T." Others need no plans at all - they move freely through their days, tackling several tasks at once, surprisingly able to keep them all straight. Some are quiet and contemplative, thinking before they speak, observing before they reach a conclusion. Others are bubbly and outgoing, thinking as they speak, relying on the energy of others to help them go through the day.
Yes. I am talking about personality.
Few people would see anything wrong with the picture I painted above - in theory. Practically speaking, however, we value certain personality traits over others. In fact, deeply embedded cultural norms may determine which personality traits are seen as "better." In the U.S., for instance, extraverts are clearly favored over introverts (check out an interview with Susan Cain on this topic). Other U.S. culture preferred personality-related characteristics (some connected to a blend of traits) may include ambition, energy, calmness, focus, and organization.
Fortunately, most of us are able to stretch. Introverts can act extraverted for an hour or so, during a party. Free spirits learn to create plans and follow them - at least during a critical meeting with the powers that be. Original souls force themselves to implement - again - blueprints of a project they would really like to toss and start over. We wear gloves. We pretend.
To be clear: There is nothing wrong with occasional stretching. In the real world, people must learn to do things they may not like so much. It's part of growing up. The problem is when occasionally becomes always. When we are asked to develop traits we are not wired to express.
Here are a few key lessons for leaders about human personalities:
What about you? What strengths are you hiding? How effective would you be if you could take off your gloves?
I have just made a firm resolution: I WILL take the weekend off. I laugh as I write this ... clearly, it shouldn't take a "special occasion" for me to take a couple of days off! Problem is - I'm a long-time sufferer from SERIOUS workaholism. My family celebrates when I finally stop. I'm not proud of it, mind you! This is something I could certainly use some help getting rid of! I suspect that my own personal workaholism "recipe" comes from an explosive combination of high N, high O, and high C - want to do everything NOW (N), want to do EVERYTHING (O), and want to do everything PERFECTLY (C).
Here are, therefore, two questions for discussion:
1. How would you connect personality and workaholism? (any studies you'd care to mention?)
2. What advice would you give workaholics to "compensate" for their tendencies to work non stop? What works?
That's it for today... happy weekend! And do wish me luck in my quest to take time off!
An interesting discussion started this week in our Big Five Group has to do with the "Dark Side" of the personality (click here to access the discussion or join the group to contribute to it!). Specifically, one of our group's members, Dr. Gordon Curphy, wondered if the Big Five personality traits allow us to find "team killers" - people who "destroy team morale and cohesiveness" (thank you Dr. Curphy for your contribution!)
Dr. Curphy's question got me thinking: Are there traits on the Big Five that would allow us to predict organizational gremlins? I'm talking about people whose general behaviors would make most people uncomfortable - perhaps people who are abrasive, rude, arrogant and yes, unethical. Yikes. Have you ever worked with someone like that?
As I write the question, however, I can see all sorts of problems in trying to "identify" a nightmare. Here are just a few:
Nightmares are Relative
Nightmarish tendencies could lie in the eye of the beholder! I could call "arrogant" someone whom others see as "charismatic." A "rude" person could simply be more direct than I am or disagree with me on a variety of key areas. How about unethical? That's tougher but still possibly relative - I could judge as "unethical" behaviors that others would find perfectly reasonable. More importantly, I might be more likely to judge as "unethical" something that is likely to damage my interests. In other words: Possibly, differences between my personality and the personality of the nightmare in question govern my own perceptions.
Nightmares have Mirrors
Maybe I'm the nightmare... or at least part of it! For instance, if two people are equally low in accommodation / agreeableness and equally high in need for stability / neuroticism they could disagree vehemently... who is the nightmare then? Both of them?
Nightmares bring Gifts
A "nightmare" could actually bring something good to the table. For instance, a tad of arrogance could work well if it translates to the outside world as rightful pride in the organization. The same person who is perceived as "abrasive" to the team could sell this same team beautifully to outside clients. Unless the situation is extreme (or perhaps even pathological) a combination of personality traits is unlikely to be all bad under all circumstances.
Nightmares are Complex
Finally, a "nightmare recipe" may require more than traits. Instead, nightmares may require an explosive combination of traits, values, and motivations. Case in point: Consider someone who is ultra high in need for stability / neuroticism (i.e., reactive, nervous, and prone to anger), ultra low in accommodation / agreeableness (a challenging "limelight seeker"), ultra low in trust and tact, somewhat dry and unfriendly, and ultra high in need to "take charge" and in perfectionism. Before you say "ouch," however, consider the possibility that this same person is exquisitely self-aware, having participated in countless coaching sessions and in 360 exercises. As a result, this person may have learned to compensate for his/her tougher tendencies. Further, this person's goals and values could serve as powerful motivators to control his/her behaviors. After all, the relationship between traits and behavior is not that perfect - two people with similar trait tendencies may still behave differently (for a better review of "additional layers" impacting behaviors, the reader is directed to the fabulous work of Dr. Dan McAdams).
In summary - diagnosing nightmares is far from simple. Even if everyone in the team agreed that person X is a nightmare he/she could still have important redeeming values - or, alternatively, something in the system could be exacerbating someone's natural tendencies. Perhaps, therefore, our thinking on this topic might go beyond "how to diagnose a nightmare." We could also figure out how to diagnose nightmarish conditions (does the system bring the "worst" in everyone?) and relationships (how incompatible is this particular team?). Further, we might learn how to best communicate about nightmares. How can a team member approach a colleague and say "Houston, we have a problem, now let's talk"?
Note: This blog was first published in my other site, www.criswildermuth.com
I love teaching. Like everyone else I may have days of tiredness and frustration. Overall, however, I love what I do. I love saying I’m a professor. I love meeting with students and can typically do so even when extremely tired. In fact, more often than not, students energize me.
Why do I love teaching so much? Here are some possible reasons:
As I write this, I wonder if there is a downside to so much love. Of course. First, love makes it personal. If you take away my classroom and my students you’re not only taking away my livelihood – you’re taking away my persona. Second, love makes it vulnerable. People can hurt those who love. Third, love makes it intense. Workaholism is a serious threat.
Ask yourself: Are you deeply in love with what you do? If so - how can you protect yourself from the vulnerabilities of love? If you find out… please tell me. For now, I’m happy to take it all – love, fear and pain. It's all worthwhile.
Welcome to my Blog
This is the first posting - just to get into the groove. I've blogged for a while now, but haven't tried to focus on the Big Five only! Given my passion for the topic I might as well give it a go!
During the next few weeks I'll enter a few postings, mostly commenting on my readings on the Big Five or my article on engagement and personality. Come back here for more!