By Mark Vickers, Ph.D.
WorkTraits Encouragers are the social glue that keep teams together. They are passionate and engaging. They help us not take life too seriously. However, they can be perceived as self-focused, or self-conscious rather than team-conscious.
The challenge Encouragers face in becoming servant leaders is in overcoming this perception. In fact, it is not simply overcoming a perception, it is overcoming a habit of drawing attention to self, even in playful ways. Often this is unconscious, but it builds upon the perception of self-focused leadership rather than servant-focused leadership.
Encouragers must consciously decide to lead with their same enthusiasm, but not care who gets the credit for success. Many great things can be accomplished when the leader doesn't need the credit. But this can be very difficult for Encouragers and leave them feeling a sense of emptiness. There is a way to overcome this, however.
Encouragers need that emotion that comes from success. It's an emotional adrenaline that gets them ready for the next challenge. Encouragers can retain that emotion while simultaneously transforming into a servant-focused leader by rejoicing in the success of the team as a whole, and specifically in individual members. Encouragers should give individuals praise. Let their team know the success is theirs. Let them experience what it means to give credit to others first. This is the basis of servant-focused leadership characteristics and over time is more rewarding to Encouragers than the old habits.
By Erin Hoffman
I have a small sign in my office directly in my line of site. The sign says “Is this action solidifying a relationship?” This simple question is a driving factor in my role at WorkTraits. As the Reseller Relationship Manager I oversee the addition of new reseller partners and their ongoing relationship with WorkTraits.
You don’t have to have the word “Relationship” in your title, however, to recognize the vital importance that building strong relationships has in business. If you dig down deep into any workplace conflict or challenge, nine times out of ten, the issue boils down to the strengths (or blindspots) in a relationship.
Here are some ways we use WorkTraits internally to improve workplace communication and build strong relationships:
As a recruitment solution
We use WorkTraits as a hiring tool to aid in the decision making process when bringing on a new team member. We give the WorkTraits assessment to our top candidates before the in-person interview. Having the WorkTraits reports in hand during an interview is an amazing way to break the ice, ask insightful questions, and immediately get a feel for how that person will fit within the team.
For team development
WorkTraits has created a common language that we use for everyday communication idiosyncrasies. It’s not uncommon to hear “That’s a lot of ideas, my Tracker needs a little time to process” or “This is my Belief coming out.” By reducing blame and increasing understanding we can build stronger working relationships.
To improve client relationships
After taking the WorkTraits training, we started to recognize behavioral traits in our clients, vendors, and even the mailman! Our sales and customer support team is better equipped to quickly recognize different communication styles and build strong relationships just by paying attention to the other person’s communication style.
At WorkTraits, being relationship centered is one of our core values. We believe in meaningful, purposeful, and long lasting relationships. At the end of the day, that is the foundation upon which our business is built.
By Mark Vickers, Ph.D.
WorkTraits Decision Makers have a passion to lead. They feel most fulfilled when they give direction, provide advice, or make important decisions. Though this can at times make them seem autocratic and non-empathetic to the talents of their team.
How then can Decision Makers avoid this perception and become servant leaders?
Decision Makers can maintain an attitude of servant leadership by empathizing with those they lead. This is accomplished in two ways. First, Decision Makers must commit to understanding the behavioral preferences of their team (followers). This begins the process of empathy and displays the leader's commitment to work collaboratively. Second, Decision Makers must acknowledge that the behavioral preferences of their team have value and will lead to the success of the team and ultimately, the leader.
Also, for Decision Makers to truly commit to become servant leaders, they must realize that following the insights and suggestions of their team is not a sign of weakness but strength. It demonstrates that they are willing to trust their team and listen to their advice. This attitude is perceived as a servant's attitude by most and will help build cohesion and collaboration.
Decision Makers must decide whom they will serve: themselves or their team. Will they risk the perception of weakness for the sake of strengthening the team? Or will their "strength" become the true weakness of the team?
By Kaitlin King
I once heard a story of a woman who answered a call on her mobile in the middle of the interview--but it didn't stop there--after she began her conversation, she asked the interviewer to leave the office because it was a "private call."
And then I heard about a man who was interviewing with a panel for a director position. After he was asked to share a little about himself to open the conversation, he began with, "I just want you to know I won't work for less than (X)." This figure was significantly higher than the budget allowed, and they excused him immediately. On the bright side, at least that panel didn't have to waste an additional 58 minutes of their time.
These hiring horror stories are funny, and my reaction is, "if only every poor candidate revealed him or herself so readily!" But the truth is there are many more individuals like the two in my examples who appear to fit the role and don't reveal their true selves until after they've been hired--and that becomes a lose-lose for everyone.
So what's the hiring solution? I don't know if there is one simple answer, but after more than a decade in management and making my own good and bad hires, I have refined my process and rely heavily on the WorkTraits assessment.
People have different beliefs about using a behavior assessment for hiring, but from my experience it opens the door to having a real conversation with an applicant. I can ask them if they agree with their results. I listen for specific words they use, how they describe themselves, their strengths, and their blindspots (which is always harder to get when you ask point blank "what are top three skills and top three weaknesses"). And if candidates are turned off by having to take the assessment, it's an indication they might not be a good fit in our organization.
I don't base my hiring decisions solely on the assessment of course, but it's a key part of the process. I want the people I hire to be just as happy and successful in their roles as I hope to be having them as employees on my team.
So what secret tool do you use to help you make the right hiring decisions? When filling a position can cost up to 300% of the salary of the position, I don't mind taking my time and investing a small budget to help me hire and retain the right people, preventing turnover and promoting a fun and productive company culture.
By Mark Vickers, Ph.D.
Following is the capacity to be moved by the good within the character of a leader. Leading is the capacity to move followers to become people of character. If a leader does not move followers by the good within their character, they lead by manipulation. When leaders humble themselves and display a transparency of character, they become worthy of following.
Think about this in your own life... Have you followed someone because of where they could take you (a better future) or what they could give you (a better job)? Or have you followed because of who they were, because you wanted to become more like them. That is why humble leaders are transformative leaders. They change who we are and who we want to become. They have servant leadership characteristics.
That is precisely what Greenleaf was getting at in his book, Servant Leadership. To be truly transformative, leaders need to be good followers, they need to serve before being served (or followed). So how does one become a servant leader? It depends on your personality. In my next post, we will examine how Decision-Makers can develop into servant leaders and why it makes a difference to followers.
By Mark Vickers, Ph.D.
Robert Greenleaf's 1977 book, Servant Leadership, changed how many scholars and practitioners thought about leadership. In it, Greenleaf argues that leaders become legitimate change agents when they have moral authority, and that authority comes through serving their followers.
It is almost paradoxical to our culture to think that service begets influence. But if we stop and think about our own experiences, we likely find that those individuals who influenced us the most also served us in some way. They gave their time and resources to our growth and well being.
Take a look around your workplace. Who do you respect the most? Do you respect that person simply because he or she has the highest position of leadership, or because that person gives you their time and ear?
In this series on Following and Leading, we will look at how each behavioral trait can exhibit servant leadership characteristics and the type of influence possible with that attitude. Though it seems the topic of leadership should be all but exhausted, it gives us a chance to learn a little more about ourselves. And as T.S. Eliot reminds us, "We must not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time."
Reality is a Bummer: How Trackers can manage behavioral blind spots
By Mark Vickers, Ph.D.
In a recent workshop, a woman commented, "I'm a Tracker, and I hate always being a Debbie Downer." She had the ability to see things as they really were and when she shared her thoughts with co-workers, she was perceived as a pessimist.
Trackers are challenged to balance the truth with enthusiasm. When they err on the truth (providing an honest, critical assessment) they are seen as unfriendly cynics. When they compensate and put on airs of enthusiasm for the sake of being a "team player" they see themselves as dishonest.
So what's a Tracker to do? I believe the answer lies in presentation, not content. When seen objectively, most Trackers are appreciated for their analytical honesty. They recognize the red flags in decisions and are able to prevent strategic mistakes before they happen. The problem faced by many Trackers is that their demeanor overshadows their content. What they say comes across as cold and calculating, devoid of any emotion, and therefore many people tune them out before they understand what is said.
Though it sounds simple, the best solution is a smile. It's hard to come across as cynical, critical, or angry with a smile. Even your tone changes. So though reality may be a bummer, (at least giving others a dose of reality) the truth is, we need Trackers. And for those Trackers out there, when reality has to be seen, present it with a little smile. It will make the truth a little more palatable :)
The Man Who Came to Dinner: How Facilitators can help from being misperceived
By Mark Vickers, Ph.D.
My daughter's high school drama class recently put on a production of "The Man Who Came to Dinner." The "Man" in it was an egocentric Decision Maker who ruled those around him. Interestingly, he was surrounded by Facilitators who were portrayed as meek and cowardly. Though largely caricatures, the one real truth of the Facilitators in the play was their ability to pick up on the emotional nuances and dysfunction of the other characters—but nobody would listen to them.
This is the lot for Facilitators. They never cease to see the emotional reality of relationships, but very rarely are they appreciated for it. And just as in the play, Facilitators can often be perceived as weak and disengaged, doomed to follow and never lead.
Though some may relegate the role of a Facilitator to vassal, they in fact are often the "real" leader. I have seen teams stop listening to the "positional" leader in a room, and turn to the Facilitator when they speak. It was the Facilitator that had the real pulse on what was going on, especially as it pertained to other people.
So how do Facilitators evoke these leadership characteristics for everyone to see? In short, courage. The Facilitator has a great capacity to bring a dose of empathy and reality to any situation. That is their strength and they should work in it, value it, and use it to build up others.
When Facilitators value themselves and their strengths, they are freer to share those strengths. But it takes courage, not so much to share their insights, but to appreciate the fact that those insights are important. The courage to be who they were meant to be is powerful regardless of how they may be perceived.
The goal of the moment and the goal of the mission: How Encouragers can help from being misperceived
By Mark Vickers, Ph.D.
An Encourager's greatest strength is his or her ability to connect with people. Encouragers are the social glue that keep teams together. But at the same time, they can be perceived as having missed the point in conversations or easily distracted by opportunities.
A simple remedy comes in engaging co-workers in two ways. First, focus on the immediate need of other's. By asking "what is the goal of this meeting?" or "how can I help solve this person's problem?". Encouragers are able to stay "in the moment" and become especially powerful team players.
Second, by focusing on the mission of the organization and encouraging others to do the same, Encouragers are able to reinforce the significance of the organization and its products or services. Encouragers have a particular gift for bringing people together, and when that gift is used to rally entire teams for a specific purpose, they become indispensable.
Focus on the goal of the moment and the goal of the mission: a simple one-two punch for knocking away any assumption of disengagement or self-focus. Encouragers shape the thoughts and perceptions of themselves, and having this self-awareness is a proactive approach to improving coworker communication on one's team.
Keep a Healthy Perspective: How Decision Makers can prevent misperception
By Mark Vickers, Ph.D.
A Decision Maker's greatest strength is his or her ability to feel confident in decisions and move teams and projects forward. Their powerful presence can motivate and their unflagging independence is seen as an asset and valuable leadership characteristic.
But one's greatest strength can also be one's greatest weakness, and for a Decision Maker, a countenance of independence and strength can convey a false reality. It can create an illusion of stability where there is uncertainty, and individualism where teamwork is needed. In short, Decision Makers' confidence can work against them.
So how can Decision Makers avoid this quandary? The answer lies in keeping a healthy perspective. That means, asking for help from teammates, and determining if what you see is what they see. If everyone sees the same reality, then better decisions will be made and teammates will be confident in the leadership of the Decision Maker.
Sometimes this requires a dose of humility for a Decision Maker, but the payoff is big. A team perspective will keep teams healthy and will keep a Decision Maker's strength from being misperceived.