Categorizing when you defy categories

How do you describe yourself? Your leadership? Your skills?

It is natural to try to fit people into categories, and especially the folks you work with – they are great with numbers, or she’s an artist, or he gives terrific presentations. There are personality profiles such as the DISC profile, which will define you as dominant, influencing, steady or consistent or Meyers-Briggs, that will refine your style to things like introvert/extrovert, thinking/feeling, etc.

But do you discount or overlook a person’s other skills or talents because you have tucked them into a particular pigeon-hole?

For instance, I am a high high C on the DISC profile and an ESTJ on Meyer’s-Briggs, which means that I am highly analytical and detail oriented. I fit very neatly in that category and thrive in very structured environments creating lots of plans, lists and guidelines.

And yet, I have an artistic side with my writing and graphic design. What wildness is this? Maybe I don’t fit so neatly in that structured category after all.

Have you done that with your team members?

Don’t get me wrong – I definitely agree with working within someone’s dominant personality style, but I think it’s important to remember that they may have other qualities as well. And we shouldn’t just assume they are only what they project most often.

Here are some ways to explore your team members’ strengths and better utilize their skill sets:

  • Evaluate – find out what your team members’ strength areas are and under what conditions they work best. But also look at what their secondary areas of strength and interest. Ideally, this should have been determined before you put them in their position, but at least make sure they are in a suitable work situation.
  • Talk – ask what parts of their job your team members enjoy the most, and what other areas they might like to explore.
  • Observe – when does your team member excel, but also, when does she light up? What really brings a smile?
  • Challenge – challenge your team member to find ways to utilize their other strengths. Are there other areas of your business or organization that could benefit from even a short term project using their other strengths?

The best leaders don’t just rely on the primary strength areas of their team members, but know them well enough to develop their other areas of passion as well. Imagine how much more successful your team would be if team members contributed all of their assets. And how much happier!

How can you expand the effectiveness of your team by using all of their strengths?

2 thoughts on “Categorizing when you defy categories

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. I would add though, that when we’re “observing” others, we need to understand their experiences…where they’re old enough for that to be relevant. For example, instead of just looking at where they’ve worked and assuming they bought into the set of values WE think that organization has, what about considering the variety of experiences…someone who’s reinvented themselves (voluntarily vs not voluntarily) successfully. What skills and abilities does THAT take and how does that map onto what we could use on this team? I personally find that people who have had a wide variance of life experiences are NOT ONLY more “interesting” (from the Dos Equis commercial), but they often have a more well developed set of perspectives, especially if they did it without alot of support systems. One skill I find very rare is the one that is needed when one finds themselves in a situation without backup, without a support system of friends, and where the work environment demands performance of a kind the person isn’t used to or has to develop skills for….. Improvisation and overcoming adversity in that case are not merely good to have, they’re key to survival.

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