Personality Profiles: I am what I am?

Peter Quirk recently forwarded an interesting post to me.  It discussed the idea of creating a “User’s Manual” for a manager, based on the manager’s leadership style and personality traits, to help employees function under that manager.  Knowing my interest in people management and transparency, he thought I might have some ideas on it.  He was right.

Kris Dunn, at HR Capitalist, didn’t like the feel of an owner’s manual, and neither do I.  I value transparency, but I think this particular implementation smacks of arrogance and lack of responsibility.  “Love me or leave me” doesn’t give much of a middle ground for growth.

That said, there is incredible value in team members and managers understanding each others’ personality profiles.  Some of that comes from experience, and picking up on and reacting to certain traits over time is part of what makes time spent together so valuable.  But part of it can and perhaps should be explicit.  I had a manager once who gave me a copy of her DISC Assessment.  It was a move of openness and trust which I appreciated at the time and appreciate now.  But the spirit of the offering was much different than the “Here’s who I am, adapt or fail” feel I get from a User’s Manual.  It came after an extended period of time, and came when I was struggling with a decision on whether my own personality would fit a transition into management.

Being explicitly transparent about your personality shows a few things to your co-workers:

  • You are self-aware
  • You want them to know and use what you know
  • You value this sort of knowledge, and welcome a similar disclosure from them

In addition, you should be transparent about your own desired changes in yourself (to the extent it doesn’t hurt your ability to manage … if your desired change is “I wish I didn’t give in whenever someone yelled at me” you might not want everyone to know that).  I say this because being honest about what you’re trying to change also makes it much easier for people to swallow when you want them to change as well.

I value all of this, and some of it should in fact be done when you first establish a relationship with a team member.

My own approach, when taking on new team members, is to explain my expectations in a face-to-face meeting.  In broad strokes, I outline ways that my style is different from other managers.  I default to trusting people to be professional about certain things, I have strong work/life boundaries and will respect yours, I am an email junkie and if I send an urgent email it’s probably really urgent and I’d like a reply, and so forth.  Of course, it’s a two way street — I get to ask what the new team member’s expectations are, give them a chance to have that same openness.

After that initial discussion of expectation, targeted, topical disclosures make more sense to me than dropping a manual on someone’s desk.  What do you think?