When we were doing the original research which led to the creation of the Influence Profile back in 2005, I don’t think Mike and I realised just how powerful it was going to be in helping people to understand personality conflicts. Not only does it explain why personality clashes occur, it also provides a practical way of exploring how you can avoid conflict altogether.
The curious thing is that it is not the difference in personality which causes the problem. Personality clashes are unlikely to occur if…
- You understand the personality difference.
- You accept their right to be different.
- You can find a way to work with the difference.
The majority of the solution can be found in the first point, which is why the Influence Profile makes such a great contribution. This psychometric considers four different dimensions of behaviour and determines the extent to which people favour or avoid the behavioural trait.
|Determination: the preference to express clear views, opinions, and goals and then drive them towards realisation (favouring) vs. the preference to consult, accommodate and reach a harmonious solution, direction, or view (avoiding).
Tact and Diplomacy: the preference to sense the feelings, concerns, and agendas of other people and respond in a sensitive way vs. the preference to be direct and clear with others so they know where they stand, even if this risks upsetting them.
Sociability and Networking: the preference to use social skills to build a wide and strong network of valuable contacts vs. the preference to focus on the task in hand and to avoid social distraction.
Emotional Control: the preference to remain calm and focused on facts and processes vs. the preference to express genuine emotions openly as they happen.
We all settle somewhere on each of these based on how we have evolved as human beings; what we were born with, what we have experienced and what we have learned along the way. We have each arrived at our current style. The trouble occurs when we meet someone who has evolved a different style.
Take Tact and Diplomacy as an example. Peter favours this type of behaviour because he has learnt that it pays to be considerate of the feelings of others. He likes to listen carefully to what people are saying and what they are not saying. Peter thinks things through carefully and is able to make his move accurately, when he is ready and when it will cause minimum upset.
Then he bumps into Sharon in the corridor. She almost barks at him demanding to know why he has failed to deliver, again. She is totally fed up with his laid-back, cautious approach and thinks he lacks the toughness to be successful in their company. By avoiding the Tact and Diplomacy behaviours, Sharon is proud that everyone knows where she stands on any issue and, if asked, will point to her enviable track record of landing the results fast. That Peter thinks she is rude and lacks respect for others passes her by entirely.
Without doubt, they will differ on the other dimensions as well.
Who has the right approach? Chances are you will lean towards the one you most closely identify with, because that is your way too. In reality, neither is right or wrong. Both have strengths in certain situations and both can become a heavy disadvantage in other situations.
Difference doesn’t always lead to conflict, but the more strongly Sharon and Peter feel about the others’ deficiencies, and the more professionally opposed they are, the more personal it will get. If both can understand, accept and tolerate their different styles, all that will remain is their professional disagreement. Then they can engage productively on reaching agreement, by compromising or agreeing to disagree.
For those of you who have been on our workshops or completed their Influence Profile, you already know this, so as a useful refresher…
Think of someone who you don’t get on particularly well with…
- Where do you think they would score on each dimension if they did the Influence Profile? Remember, individual scores should be between 0-15 and should add up to 30.
- What differences exist between your scores and theirs?
- With the biggest difference, how does their behaviour help them?
- How does it hinder them?
- How does it make you feel?
- Why are they right to behave like that?
- How will you adapt your behaviour to remove the distraction?
Here’s what you can do to begin understanding more about personality differences…
- Expand from the behavioural examples above for each dimension and brainstorm more typical behaviours for each one. Make sure and get at least 5 clues which might indicate someone who favours and 5 clues for someone who avoids. Do that for each dimension.
- Now give yourself a score between 0 and 15 on the dimension. An extreme score of 0 indicates that you will almost always do the ‘avoiding’ and rarely if ever do the ‘favouring’ behaviours.
- Think of your arch-enemy. Where do you think they would score on each dimension? Why?
- What implications does each difference with your scores create?
- Are they wrong for behaving like they do? Why might they be right?
- Are you willing to accept their preferred behaviour?
- What do you need to do to be able to put aside these differences and concentrate on the content of your disagreement?
The more often you consider these fascinating aspects of organisation life and relationships, the more successful you will become. As I said, there is nothing wrong with difference; in fact, it spices things up quite nicely. Adjusting both your behaviour and your attitude can actually be quite liberating. So go to it and, if you can, take a friend along for the ride too ― so much more fun discussing that peculiar stakeholder’s behaviour over a coffee and out of earshot!
For a limited time, you can complete your own profile here, and see how you measure up on the dimensions:
Colin Gautrey is becoming the most sought-after expert in power and influence by ambitious and talented professionals who are serious about accelerating their careers and their results. But, Colin is certainly not for the faint-hearted.
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