Leave the White Flag at Home


white flagWhen thinking about personality, one thing that we know is there is no such thing as a good or bad personality. It really depends on the job and situation. This is a point that we regularly emphasize to individuals and organizations. Along these same lines, we know that high scores on personality assessments do not inherently mean good things, and low scores do not always mean bad things – there are positives and negatives to both ends of the continuum. Having stated that, our scores do represent our reputations. Over the course of time people come to expect certain behaviors from us based on our past performances.

One of the main goals of personality assessment is to provide individuals with strategic self-awareness. Through feedback, we can help the individual understand his or her tendencies and reputation in the work environment. As such, we can help the low Prudence individual understand that others view him or her as being impulsive and lacking attention to detail, or aid the high Prudence individual with recognizing that he or she may be somewhat inflexible and resistant to change. Having stated that, we are not out to change personality, rather we are looking to make people more aware of their tendencies so they can change their behavior moving forward.

Nevertheless, change is a difficult and ongoing process. To illustrate this point, take a minute to write a few sentences using your opposite hand (i.e., your right hand if you are left-handed and vice-versa). At first, it’s a challenging and awkward thing to do. However, with practice this behavior will become easier to execute. This analogy represents what we are trying to accomplish with feedback and coaching. We should not be trying to convert lefties to righties, and the same is true with personality. We are not trying to convert the low Prudence to high Prudence (or vice-versa), rather we are aiming to help individuals understand their strengths and shortcomings of what their scores represent, and provide developmental tips to leverage these strengths and mitigate these shortcomings.

So, the next time you are confronted with a challenging situation, don’t throw up a white flag and hide behind your personality scores. If you’re low Prudence and the project requires attention to detail, or are high Prudence and the project demands flexibility and openness to change, don’t allow your personality to be a barrier to your success. Instead, take some time to reflect on your natural response tendencies and decide if this is the most advantageous response option given the situation, or if a different course of action would be more beneficial. Through persistence and ongoing coaching, we can learn to overcome the dark side of our personality and let the bright side shine.