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Personality Matters But It Does Not Predict Performance

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Personality assessments like the Myers-Briggs will tell you what you’re good at, where your strengths and weaknesses lie, but it won’t tell you what jobs you’re really good at, or how to improve if you’re not.

Knowing what motivates you to succeed in leadership is essential.

How you use this information is not only valuable to your own self-growth, but to helping others achieve more, which is an important factor in leading so others can follow.

What you focus on is what affects your performance.

Heidi Grant Halvorson and E. Tory Higgins in their article Do You Play To Win or Lose say there are two types of focus for individuals in the workplace.

Promotion-focused people, and Prevention-focused people.

Promotion-focused people:

  • Work quickly
  • Consider lots of alternatives and are great brainstormers
  • Are open to new opportunities
  • Are optimists
  • Plan only for best-case scenarios
  • Seek positive feedback and lose steam without it
  • Feel dejected or depressed when things go wrong
     

Prevention-focused people:

  • Work slowly and deliberately
  • Tend to be accurate
  • Are prepared for the worst
  • Are stressed by short deadlines
  • Stick to tried-and-true ways of doing things
  • Are uncomfortable with praise or optimism
  • Feel worried or anxious when things go wrong
     

Which one are you, and does your career mirror those tendencies?

If you’re in the first category, the promotion focus, you are more likely to be an innovator, a creator, or an entrepreneur. You are someone who is able to take risks and stretch assignments because you believe you can do it.

If you’re in the second category, the prevention focused group, you will play it safe, look to follow the rules and regulations, and keep your head down.

Which of these makes a better leader?

The answer would probably be the first category, but the reality is you need a mixture of both to be a great leader.

It’s not enough to have a large vision, influence lots of people, build trust and motivate your followers. You must also know how to handle the details, be deliberate in your actions, and be prepared for the worst, even as you keep a positive spin on the direction you’re taking, and get buy-in from those who are supporting you.

Leadership is complicated.

When different personalities work together there is always stress. I hear it all the time in my coaching practice when my clients complain about their co-workers, or their bosses. The problem gets exacerbated when there is a my-way or the highway approach that causes great stress among the team.

In research done with more than 12,500 private, public, military, and government organizations across 21 countries by Professors Andrew and Nada K. Kakabadse found the following correlated with Promotion versus Prevention leadership styles.

If you have a promotion boss and a prevention employee, you may find that the employee feels overlooked and underutilized because they the boss fails to encourage him with defined tasks and clear objectives. Thus, you get underperformance.

With promotion employee and prevention employee working together their contrasting styles will lead to tension. The person who is more cautious will find the person who has more drive threatening. In turn, the other will be frustrated by the barriers and may openly challenge him.

Promotion boss and prevention boss there is a power struggle. One will emphasize successes, which undermines the other, and criticism ensues, frequently behind the person’s back.

Prevention boss and promotion employee are a ticket to micromanagement,which doesn’t sit well with promotion person who sees it as overly critical and builds resentment, which ultimately lead to leaving.

To avoid these scenarios, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, as well as understanding where you put your focus, will go a long way toward developing understanding. Sometimes minor tweaks in how to connect with others can make a huge difference.

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