Serious skills part 1

The 4 Operating Styles

On Tuesday I trudged to the Chamber of Commerce to listen to a 90-minute talk by Ann E W Stone, founder of The Stone Group , an international business and political consultancy.  I was intrigued by the tile of the session:  ’25 skills that signal you are to be taken seriously’.

In the first part of the talk, Ms Stone went through a modified version of the Myers-Briggs Operations Styles.  Her company gets all prospective employees to do the test, ‘to ensure that people are matched with the right manager.’  Ms Stone said she had also run the test with senior military personnel – not entirely surprising given her Republican credentials.  She said that a General once told her that the results of the test helped him reassess his relationship with his wife.

There were some amusing anecdotes about the dominant personality types:

  • THINKERS have clean offices, drive good-value cars with no bumper stickers and are keen on self-help books
  • SENSORS love executive summaries and spicy food, watch the bottom line and end up becoming CEOs or megalomaniacs
  • FEELERS are social butterflies, care about people and have names for their messy cars
  • INTUITORS are entrepreneurial, love new restaurants, fight for big causes, can visualise maps, stay awake because of tomorrow and drive unusual cars

Intuitors and Feelers are personality opposites – as are Thinkers and Sensors.

So I took the test of 12 multiple choice questions and scored, out of a total of 168:  INTUITOR (48), THINKER (45), SENSOR (41), FEELER (34).  And under stress, my thinking and feeler aptitudes increase and my other two operating styles decrease.

OK.  So I run my own company and I make my living from thinking and doing.  But I drive a Ford Focus not a 911.  And though I do buy the spin about balanced teams by having representatives of all four personalities –  I have also seen teams paralysed by bickering because people just did not get on.

Then came the clincher:

‘You should keep taking the test on a regular basis.  Because your answers will change over time.  Your personality changes.  Especially if you change the way you interact with the world.  That is why it is important to master the 25 skills that signal that you are to be taken seriously.’

Perhaps.  Yes, you can teach a dog new tricks and there are millions of business books published each year to help us do just that.  But can our personality really change?  Or is it a fundamental component of the way we are hard-wired?  Increasingly,  I believe that we are born with a set of strengths and that life is better spent focusing on making those work then trying to change our personality.

And I kept thinking:  now what do I do with this information?  Now that I am aware of my surprisingly-balanced operating style?  How does this help me get on better in life and work and relationships?  And am I sure that the holy grail of business is about ‘being taken seriously’?

I could relate to much of the material on the typical characteristics for the 4 operating styles:  how we typically behave (with and without stress), our strengths, our non-verbal characteristics (with and without pressure), how we make decisions, how we communicate.  The more I looked at the matrices in front of me, the more I could see pieces of myself, and people I know, in them.

Then for some reason, I started to think of Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner shouting ‘I am not a number, I’m a human being’.  Except here he’d be taking umbridge at the strait jacket of the operating style characteristics.

It was with this slightly subversive feeling that I settled to part 2 of Ms Stone’s lecture.

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