Category Archives: Building strong personal career paths

Starting from a position of choice in manager-employee relationships


By Elisabeth Goodman, 17th May 2019

An article in the latest issue of Harvard Business Review has, as is often the case, triggered some lateral thinking on my part.  Borys Groysberg (2020) explores a case study of whether a manager should fight to keep a star employee who decides to leave the organisation without any apparent prior indication of wanting to do so.

There follows some very valid discussion, from the author and from two contributing experts, on the merits or otherwise of various remedial-style actions.

What are your options when an employee says they plan to leave your employment?

As the manager you can:

  • Make various forms of counter-offer to the employee
  • Find out why the employee is leaving and see if the reasons can be addressed in a way that would stop them doing so
  • Promote their colleague to stop them leaving as well, and to fill the gap even if they might not (yet) have the necessary skills
  • Give their colleague the incentive to work towards promotion by developing their skills to fill the gap
  • Put your own work to one side in order to fill the gap until someone else can be found to fill it

What the article also begins to explore is what preventative actions the manager could have taken which might have prevented the employee wanting to leave in the first place, or helped them to be better prepared for them wanting to do so.

What are your options to pre-empt an employee taking you by surprise with their career choices?

I believe that such preventative options could be even better positioned were managers and employees to adopt the mindset that:

  1. People work for a company by choice, just as a company chooses to recruit people for specific jobs
  2. The relationship between an individual and their manager is a collaborative one, which combines meeting the organisation’s requirements and supporting the individual in their personal development plans
  3. An individual may find that their personal development is best continued elsewhere
  4. A company’s requirements from an individual will also evolve over time

There are various tools that can support discussions between managers and employees about their respective expectations. Most important is to have the conversation itself. [Illustration based on various RiverRhee courses for managers.]

How to start from a position of choice in manager-eMployee relationships?

If we start from a position of choice in manager-employee relationships, then some good practices, which the HBR article does mention, could be re-cast as follows:

1. Have regular one-to-one discussions which are not only task-focused, but also reflect on how things are going in terms of :

  • The individual’s expectations for their personal development
  • The organisation’s requirements from the individual

2. Discuss succession planning:

  • How the individual’s career might evolve within the organisation in terms of potential gaps from other people leaving
  • What the individual could do to develop others who might fill their role if they move to other roles within or outside the organisation

3. Perhaps most importantly of all, regularly demonstrate, through positive feedback, how much you value the individual’s contribution to the company

notes

Reference

Groysberg, B. (2020) Case Study: Should you Fight to Keep a Star? Harvard Business Review, May – June

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, through courses, workshops and one-to-one coaching, and with a focus on the Life Sciences. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting teams on a global basis.  She is developing her coaching practice, with a focus on helping individuals to develop management, interpersonal and communication skills, and to deal with change.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of the APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Elisabeth is also a member of the ICF (International Coaching Federation) and is working towards her PG Certification in Business and Personal Coaching with Barefoot Coaching and the University of Chester.

Working with diversity in thinking, learning and interpersonal styles


Elisabeth Goodman, 9th May 2020

I’ve been doing a bit of reading and thinking about the impact of diversity in how we think and learn and how this might play out in our interactions with each other at work, or indeed at home.

A look at Neurodiversity

There is a lot that we can learn from people who are described as ‘neurodiverse’, given, as Nancy Doyle (2019) says, that:

It is estimated that just 59% of people can be considered “neurotypical”. With prevalence data like that, we have to assume that neurodiversity is a natural variation within the human species.

People who are ‘neurodiverse’ include those “with autism, Asperger’s, dyslexia, ADHD. They have a cognitive profile of extreme strengths and weaknesses and in how they think, and in how they interact with others. People who are ‘neurotypical’ tend to score about the same on all measures of their cognitive profiles.

According to Genius Within , the cognitive strengths of the ‘neurodiverse’ cover a plethora of intellectual and interpersonal skills (or intelligences) such as problem solving, holistic thinking, verbal skills, visual thinking, mechanical skills, creativity, attention to detail, hyperfocus, empathy, persistance etc.

The list represents all the different skills that we would want in the workplace the difference being, Doyle (2019) suggests, that individuals who are ‘neurodiverse’ will specialise in some of these, whilst those who are ‘neurotypical’ might be more generalist. Or would they?

Insights from personality tools and learning styles

We have a vast choice of personality tools available to us to help us understand our individual strengths and those of others.

MBTI summary slide

MBTI summary slide from RiverRhee’s training courses, with illustrations by Nathaniel Spain

What we can learn from personality tools is that we are all diverse in terms of which cognitive and interpersonal skills come to us most naturally, and which ones we have learnt to develop over time.

Kolb, and Honey and Mumford add yet more perspectives to this in terms of our different learning styles such as:

  • experiential or activist
  • reviewing or reflecting
  • concluding or theorising
  • planning or pragmatism

Are we simply talking about different types of intelligences?

In digging deeper on this whole subject, as part of carrying out my research for my PG Certificate in Business and Personal Coaching, I came across Watagodakumbura (2014).  His focus is on the need to address all of these differences in terms of education.

He quotes, amongst other really useful things, a range of intelligences: linguistic, spatial, logical-mathematical, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, intrapersonal and interpersonal, naturalistic and existential.

Watagodakumbura also reminds us, as Grandin (2013) does, that a lot of the differences in our cognitive and interpersonal skills can be related to differences in brain development. This opens up further questions for me about what we are born with, and what we can develop over time.  What role does neuroplasticity for instance play in all of this?

Conclusion: So what can we do with this understanding of diversity?

I personally find this whole area tremendously fascinating and exciting.  There is so much we can learn about ourselves and the people around us.

We can use this knowledge in a way that is enriching for ourselves and to enhance our interactions with others. We can make conscious choices about how to develop ourselves, and how to take advantage of opportunities that make the best of our strengths.

There is so much more to learn about this area.  I’m looking forward to finding out more.

Notes

References

Doyle, N (2019). Making the invisible visible – supporting neurodiversity in the workplace. Personnel Today, 1st Feb. https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/making-the-invisible-visible/ (Accessed 9th May 2020)

Genius Within – https://www.geniuswithin.co.uk/infographics-and-literature/neuro-diversity-venn-diagram/ (Accessed 9th May 2020)

Grandin, T. and Panek, R. (2013). The Autistic Brain. Rider Books.

Honey and Mumford – https://www.open.edu/openlearn/ocw/pluginfile.php/629607/mod_resource/content/1/t175_4_3.pdf (Accessed 9th May 2020)

Kolb – https://www.simplypsychology.org/learning-kolb.html (Accessed 9th May 2020)

Watagodakumbura, C. (2014). The need to address psychological and neurological characteristics of learners in the mainstream education system. Journal of Studies in Education, Vol 4(1), 94-108

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, through courses, workshops and one-to-one coaching, and with a focus on the Life Sciences. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting teams on a global basis.  She is developing her coaching practice, with a focus on helping individuals to develop management, interpersonal and communication skills, and to deal with change.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of the APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Elisabeth is also a member of the ICF (International Coaching Federation) and is working towards her PG Certification in Business and Personal Coaching with Barefoot Coaching and the University of Chester.

Keeping our personal values in mind in the workplace


By Elisabeth Goodman, 13th February 2020

I am finding some great intersections between my regular reading of Harvard Business Review and my new reading as part of my development as a coach.

This blog explores how congruence between our personal values and those of the organisation for which we work can influence how we feel about our work. It relates to Myles Downey’s writing (2014) and Maryam Kouchaki and Isaac Smith’s article in the January – February issue of HBR (2020).

Congruence between the inner and outer worlds of individuals and organisations

Downey builds on the work of Tim Gallwey (1974) to develop a model of individuals’ and organisations’ inner and outer worlds as shown in this illustration.

Values at work - illustration adapted from Myles Downey (2014)

Values at work – illustration adapted from Myles Downey (2014)

As my adaptation of Downey’s illustration shows, values are a key component of the inner world of individuals, and of organisations. These values are, in turn, reflected in how an individual behaves, and in how an organisation articulates its goals and assesses the performance of individuals.

It follows that, if there is not a good match (or congruence) between the four quadrants, then:

  • Either the organisation will not be satisfied with an individual’s performance
  • Or the individual will not be happy in their place of work

The values that might have the greatest influence on these dynamics are those associated with the ethics of the organisation, or in how they play out as individual morals. Kouchaki and Smith refer to these as “eulogy virtues”.

Eulogy virtues

Eulogy virtues, as the name implies, are the ones by which we would like others to remember us after we’ve died. So they may relate, for example, to our kindness, our generosity or our honesty. In an organisation they would translate to how we would expect peers and managers to behave towards each other, and towards their customers.

Kouchaki and Smith’s article has some useful guidance on how we could help ourselves keep to our chosen values for instance by:

  • Anticipating situations where they might be compromised and how we would behave in those situations
  • Sharing our values with others who could hold us accountable for our behaviour
  • Thinking about how we would feel if our behaviour was publicised (if we did not adhere to our values)
  • Considering ourselves as role models to others

Identifying and relating personal and organisational values

Barefoot Coaching Ltd (2019) has a beautiful set of cards covering 50 potential values.

Barefoot Coaching Values Cards

A snapshot of Barefoot Coaching’s values cards (Barefoot Coaching Ltd, 2019)

These and other values-related tools can be used to stimulate reflection and discussion with individuals, in teams, and in organisations.

A previous HBR article by Patrick Lencioni (2002) has some excellent tips for defining company values – an approach that I have facilitated in team building events as part of my work with RiverRhee.

Lencioni suggests that company values typically relate to three areas:

  1. What makes your company unique
  2. Employee qualities and interactions
  3. Customer service

Examples of questions that individuals could ask themselves when developing or reflecting on their company values include:

  • Why do I enjoy working at my company?
  • What unspoken values have contributed to our success so far?
  • How could each person in the organisation integrate their company’s values into their day-to-day work?
  • How will we know that people are practising the values

Conclusion

Values are an important component of our inner lives.  They affect how we approach and feel about our lives at work as well as at home.  We can gain some valuable insights from the authors mentioned above about how we can shape and influence organisational values to achieve maximum congruence with our own and others’ personal values.

Notes

References:

Barefoot Coaching Ltd (2019). Values coaching cards.

Downey, M, (2014). Effective modern coaching. London: LID Publishing.

Gallwey, W.T. (1974).  The inner game of  tennis.  New Yort: Random House.

Lencioni, P.M. (2002).  Make your values mean something.  Harvard Business Review

Kouchaki, M. & Smith, I.H. (2020) Building an ethical career. Harvard Business Review, January-February, 15 – 139

Other notes:

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, through courses, workshops and one-to-one coaching, and with a focus on the Life Sciences.

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting teams on a global basis.  She is developing her coaching skills and practice, with a focus on helping individuals to develop management and ‘soft’ skills, especially associated with change, and with Neurodiversity.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of the ICF (International Coach Federation) and of the APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

The manager as coach: leadership, management and coaching


By Elisabeth Goodman, 4th February 2020

We had a question during our recent RiverRhee Introduction to Management course about the relevance of learning about leadership skills as part of a management course. (We do have a follow-on Transition to Leadership course.) We believe that the visionary aspects of leadership are valuable ones for managers to bear in mind, albeit their focus might be more on the operational side of things.

I have, coincidentally, just come across a connection with this topic as part of my reading on coaching skills (Downey, 2014).

Leadership_management_coaching per Myles Downey

Adapted from Myles Downey’s illustration (Downey, 2014)

Myles Downey asserts that a manager can usefully draw on skills from all three areas: leadership, management and coaching, depending on the situation and the individual involved.

(This is a slightly different take on Hersey and Blanchard’s ‘situational leadership’ model (Hersey and Blanchard, 2013))

exercising leadership vs management vs coaching in a management role

Referring to my version of Downey’s illustration above, a manager can make good use of their leadership skills to inspire the members of their team.  They can articulate and role-model the organisation’s vision and values.

They can use their management skills to clarify purpose, roles and responsibilities, to define measures for performance and to foster continuous process improvement.

And they can use their coaching skills to assist with the on-the-job and career development of the individuals reporting to them by:

  • providing feedback on their performance
  • listening to understand and asking open questions to stimulate further thinking
  • supporting (rather than automatically advising) them so that they can find their own answers and solutions

An Individual’s authority over their destiny

I remember feeling ‘liberated’ in my last months as an employee to be totally myself, and more in control of my destiny than I had ever been. I did not worry unduly about needing to respect hierarchy and the boundaries between departments, so much as looking for opportunities to collaborate, share knowledge and ideas, and be of value. How different would my life at work have been if I had adopted more of this kind of attitude throughout my career?

Myles Downey suggests that, whilst an organisation (and a manager) have authority about what work an employee needs to do, the employee could have authority about how they do their work.  It’s something that is often referred to as ’empowerment’, and as something that is in the gift of managers to give to their direct reports; or that individuals should somehow take the initiative to acquire.  Wouldn’t it be better if we just assumed that this is the way we work?

Downey also suggests that an individual could think more in terms of whether an organisation will be a good fit for them before they join. They could ask themselves: “does the organisation have the kinds of purpose, values and ways of working that I can relate to?”.

Similarly, he suggests that an organisation, when recruiting new employees, could consider whether the individual’s aspirations, values and approach, as well as their technical skills are a good fit.

Conclusion

Underpinning all of the above is the necessity for a good relationship between managers and their direct reports.  Such a relationship would be founded on mutual respect, trust, open communication, honesty.  Building this relationship is in the gift of both the manager and the individual.

Notes

References:

Downey, M, (2014). Effective modern coaching. London: LID Publishing.

Hersey and Blanchard, (2013). https://www.selfawareness.org.uk/news/situational-leadership-and-developing-great-teams (Accessed 3rd February 2020.)

Other notes:

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, through courses, workshops and one-to-one coaching, and with a focus on the Life Sciences.

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting teams on a global basis.  She is developing her coaching practice, with a focus on helping individuals to develop management and ‘soft’ skills, especially associated with change, and with Neurodiversity.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

The manager as coach: helping employees reach their potential


By Elisabeth Goodman, 5th September 2019

Illustration from Boyatzis et al, “Coaching for Change – how to help employees reach their potential”, HBR Sept-Oct 2019, pp. 151-155

Why this blog?

The ability to coach is an invaluable, if sometimes daunting, management skill, as well as something that I and my colleagues at RiverRhee offer to support our clients.  So I am starting a new series of blogs, under the main heading of “The manager as coach”, the first of which appeared recently as a LinkedIn post …”when a direct report is grieving”.

The article by Richard Boyatzis, Melvin Smith and Ellen Van Oosten in the latest issue of Harvard Business Review (Sept-Oct 2019) caught my eye.  This was partly because of the topic, partly because Boyatzis is also a co-author of the Building Blocks of Emotional Intelligence that I so enjoyed reading in 2018-19. (See my blogs on this theme culminating in Inspirational leadership through the lens of emotional intelligence.)

As the authors of this article point out, we often get caught up in the minute details of problems or situations that people are dealing with.  It may be however that these issues are symptomatic of some bigger personal change that the individual wants to address.

This article provides guidance on how to spot the opportunity for coaching in this context, and how to go about supporting what Boyatzis defines as “intentional change” (see definition in the notes to this blog).

spot the opportunity

As with all activities involving change, it’s a question of finding the opening for making it happen: when an individual will be at their most receptive and energised for this.

The authors of the HBR article reinforce something that I wrote about in Defining a positive vision for change: people change either because they are moving away from something that is painful or uncomfortable, or because there is something positive, attractive or desirable that they want to move towards.

As the HBR authors say, it’s about spotting when people are ready “to grow” – in terms of what they are saying, or not saying, and their body language when you are observing or interacting with them.

I continue to really like the clean language question: “What would you like to have happen” as a prompt for discovering, and helping the individual to discover, what that opportunity for change might be.  It seems to be a great way to provide clarity when people are otherwise getting bogged down and maybe even overwhelmed by the problems they are dealing with.

Help to put the groundwork in place

There are lots of great tips in the HBR article for ways to help an individual articulate what they want to achieve, how the current situation relates to that, and what their next steps might be to bridge the gap.  This process is a variation on the GROW model, and on Appreciative Inquiry, that I’ve written about elsewhere.

Boyatzis et al emphasise the importance of creating a positive environment for this discussion: people will be much more open, receptive and ready to reflect and learn in such a situation.

Picture Coaching Cards – from Barefoot Coaching

I’ve been experimenting with Barefoot Coaching‘s beautiful picture cards as one way to do this.  I’ve found that the colourful nature of the picture cards and the way that they help people to step a little outside the intensity of personal reflection are really conducive to this.  Some of the pictures even result in expressions of joy or laughter!

(By the way, a visit to a museum shop is also a great source of colourful and diverse cards for this kind of activity.  I have a collection from the Fitzwilliam Museum including drawings by Quentin Blake that people also enjoy.)

The authors also talk about the importance of compassion.  It is about communicating your sincere interest in the individual, your empathy for their situation, your desire to help. This involves really good listening skills on the part of the manager or coach: total focus on the individual, and un-biased / non-suggestive open questions. The authors suggest that you let the individual do “at least 805 of the talking”!

Another key component of setting the groundwork is helping the individual create a compelling vision of what they want to achieve: how they see themselves ‘at their best’.

Finally, I like the authors’ point that “the learning agenda is not a performance improvement plan designed to address shortcomings”.  It is all about leaving people “energised and empowered to improve”.

provide follow-through support

To close, we know that any form of change requires time, effort and practice – it can be really challenging.  So the manager or coach needs to be there, to check-in periodically, to encourage and provide support as needed.  What form this will take is something to agree with the individual, and to keep under review as appropriate.

I like the HBR article authors’ idea of the individual creating a peer support network, or “compassionate catalysts”.  As one of their case study leaders  (Karen Milley – R&D Head at a large consumer goods company) says: “I’m seeing that compassion with each other leads to compassion with customers, constituents, and all others, which creates performance.”

This is something that we try to create through “Action Learning Groups” in RiverRhee’s training for managers – where the delegates form groups to support each others with their learning and forward plans, both during and potential following the course.

The authors’ final point: “If you’re a manager, your most important job is to help those around you reach their greatest potential.”  I agree.

Notes

To quote the article, “intentional change involves envisioning ..who you wish to be and what you want to do..; exploring [the current gaps and strengths that might help you to get there]; developing a learning agenda (a road map for turning aspirations into reality); and then experimenting and practicing (with new behaviors and roles).”

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Leadership achievement …with balance


By Elisabeth Goodman, 17th November, 2018

What is “Achievement Orientation”?

The fourth primer in Daniel Goleman et al’s series on Emotional Intelligence is entitled “Achievement Orientation” – as summarised in this illustration.

Illustration of the meaning of “Achievement Orientation” – from primer 4. in Building Blocks of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman et al. Key Step Media, 2017

The authors highlight the difference between what individuals might have excelled at early on in their professional careers vs. what it might take to get them to the next level of management or leadership.

This booklet seems particularly apt to illustrate some of the key concepts that my colleague Liz Mercer and I explore in RiverRhee’s course on the Transition to Leadership.

Balanced leadership

According to Goleman and his co-authors, the best leaders balance their personal drive for excellence, continuous improvement, challenging goals, and calculated risks with an understanding of the needs and goals of the organisation and of the people around them.

Richard Boyatzis shares an insightful perspective on “toxic” leadership.

He suggests that indications of a “toxic’ leader are when they micromanage, and demonstrate unhappiness or stress.  According to Boyatzis, these signal an over-emphasis on personal goals, as opposed to a more balanced concern for the team and for their and the organisation’s goals.

Leaders can achieve a more balanced approach through:

  • greater use of emotional and social intelligence
  • 360 degree feedback
  • practising goal setting, measuring performance and visioning as part of daily routines
  • support from a coach

We can also harness our brains for a balanced approach to achievement

According to Richard J Davidson, we can also develop greater proficiency in “Achievement Orientation” through our understanding of the brain as illustrated below.

The pre-frontal cortex supports the thinking associated with setting goals.  The nucleus accumbens is rich in dopamine and helps us to feel ‘good’ about what we are doing.

Davidson suggests that the left and right sides of the brain can respectively support or act against a positive approach to goal setting and to feeling ‘good’ about it.

As with all things, practice will help to activate these parts of the brain and so help us to get better at achieving the right balance of personal drive and support for others’ goals.

High performance teams can also demonstrate achievement with balance

Each of the twelve primers in the Building Blocks of Emotional Intelligence has a chapter by Vanessa Druskat where she describes the behavioural norms that teams might demonstrate.

Druskat and her colleagues studied the performance and behaviours of a number of high performing and average performing teams.

They found that the distinguishing factors were the extent to which the members of the teams developed strong interpersonal relationships as well as the more performance related norms.  The performance related norms that Druskat cites are:

  • Performance orientation
  • Team self-evaluation
  • Proactive problem solving

A full list of all the team norms can be found in: Defining team norms for high performance teams (this is based on the 11th primer: Teamwork)

Grit and calculated risk

According to Goleman, leaders who demonstrate “Achievement Orientation” will have the tenacity to overcome obstacles and set-backs.

They will also be both bold and realistic in their approach to risks.  They will pick the right peg in the ‘ring toss game’ or ‘hoops’ – far enough to stretch them and the organisation, but not so far as to risk disaster!

These concepts are also illustrated in my full-page summary of yet another fascinating booklet in Goleman et al’s series on Emotional Intelligence!

Full page illustration of the meaning of “Achievement Orientation” – from primer 4. in Building Blocks of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman et al. Key Step Media, 2017

Notes

My blogs on other booklets in the series:

About the author. Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals). Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Dealing with the dark side of our personalities!


By Elisabeth Goodman, 9th November 2017

Current approaches to management put emphasis on identifying and developing our strengths.  And rightly so.  Our individual strengths give us the opportunity to make significant contributions in our home and work lives.  The diversity of strengths within a team contribute to the success of organisations.

Personality tools such as Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and others likewise put an emphasis on understanding and developing our strengths.

However, we also have a “dark side” to our personalities!

In Belbin language these are our “allowable weaknesses”, in MBTI language it is our “blind spots”.  The Hogan Development Survey (HDS), described by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic in the September-October 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review (see note 1 below), focuses entirely on eleven of these “dark side” traits.

From weaknesses and blind spots to the dark side…

The HDS survey is based on the work of Robert and Joyce Hogan, two psychologists who, about 20 years ago, identified aspects of personality that, if unchecked, can derail interactions at work, individual careers, and the effectiveness of teams and organisations.

Dark side traits taken from the Hogan Development Survey

The eleven traits are categorised under three headings:

  • Distancing traits – ones that push people away by making it hard to build trust
  • Seductive traits – ones that pull people in but, if overdone, can then have negative or destructive consequences
  • Ingratiating traits – that can impress others, but result in self-harm through being too submissive

It can be difficult to know where to focus our attention with so many personality tools out there.  The HDS traits have some echoes of the Belbin Type Roles and their “allowable weaknesses”, and of the MBTI personality types and the “blind spots” that people might experience.

Word cloud generated from words used to describe Belbin “allowable weaknesses”

But the most important take-home lessons from all of this are probably to:

  1. Be aware of when the “dark side” of your strengths may be having a negative impact on yourself or on others
  2. Develop some strategies for minimising these negative effects

Strategies for minimising the negative effects of our “dark side”

The Harvard Business Review article references a few strategies which could apply to any definition of personality weaknesses.

The first thing is to be aware of our actual or potential negative traits and the impact it may be having on others.

Resources available to us are:

  • Reflection on situations that did not work out as well as we would have liked and whether our own behaviour triggered that
  • Ad-hoc feedback from others
  • More formal feedback e.g.
    • 360 degree questionnaires
    • Observer input available through Belbin questionnaires
    • The HDS survey

The MBTI personality type descriptions also provide a rich source of information about some negative characteristics that might emerge when we are feeling mildly stressed or severely so (“in the grip”).

All of these are ways to build your emotional intelligence (self and social awareness) about yourself and your interactions with others.

Identify and practise some new strategies to help you deal with your “dark side”

As with all endeavours to do something new or different, it’s a good idea to start small and build from there.

Pick something you feel most motivated to do something about, and something you can relatively easily put in place.

So, for example, using some of the words above, if you have a tendency to:

  • Be overly sceptical (an HDS trait, the allowable weakness of a “Monitor Evaluator” in Belbin Team Roles and a characteristic of MBTI “extraverted thinking” types). The impact of that on others is that they may feel discouraged or defensive about sharing ideas with you.  You may want to choose an area of your work, or a specific occasion, to deliberately demonstrate greater openness to others’ views.
  • Lose touch with reality (Belbin “Plant”, HDS “Imaginative” trait), MBTI “extraverted intuition”).  The impact of that on others is that they may get impatient with you, or not pay attention to you. You could identify a typical situation when this might happen, perhaps a weekly team meeting, and focus on demonstrating greater collaboration with others.

You could also ask a helpful colleague or friend to alert you when they see you demonstrating one of your negative traits, and support you in whatever corrective action (“self-management” or “relationship management”  in emotional intelligence terms) you’ve identified.

Don’t be shy about asking for help from others

There are a few suggestions above about how feedback and support from others could help you detect and address your “dark side”.

Coaching is also an option.  The MBTI coaching and emotional intelligence resources are rich with tips on how to deal with “blind spots” and developmental challenges associated with the MBTI Types.

Notes

  1. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic.  Could you personality derail your career?  Harvard Business Review, September-October 2017, pp.138-141
  2. About the author. Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. 

    She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.