From time to time for my day job, I attend a management seminar or class.
They are infrequent, and are entered on my calendar a couple of months or more in advance. I don’t give it much thought until the day before, when I will often try to think of a way I can get out of it. It happened just last week.
That’s not becoming of me, I realize that, especially since the presenters put time and energy into preparation, but it’s true.
What is also true is I always learn something, and in hindsight will believe it was time well spent. Unfortunately, that hindsight usually does not last until the next one.
So in this autumn season of my career, as I work toward being more self-aware, I am going to try to remember how beneficial these classes have been. My goal is, when the next one rolls around, to embrace it ahead of time and go with a good attitude.
I’m sure the presenters would also be pleased if I would do the “pre-work” – the hour or so of advance reading or preparation that is suggested, which I’m sure makes it even more beneficial. That way, when he or she makes eye contact with me, my body language will not betray my lack of knowledge of the subject matter and how I’m trying to do the pre-work while simultaneously following the presentation.
For the past few years, much of what has been presented pertains to personality types and how they affect the workplace. The idea is that, if I know what my own tendencies are, and I know those of my co-workers, especially those who report to me, we are more productive and work more efficiently.
This is nothing new, of course. The personality tests and analyses have been around for decades, whether it’s Myers Briggs, DiSC or StrengthsFinder.
Today the Enneagram, which is a very old theory of nine personality types in which each type is assigned a number, is seeing a surge in popularity. Although it has not been mentioned in any classes I have attended, I have read some about it and I know there are now corporate workshops devoted to Enneagram types and how the different types work together.
I am long past the dating scene, of course, but I have a hunch the question, “What is your number?” is a big icebreaker question in the early getting-to-know-you stages these days.
My wife and I each took some kind of personality test (I think it was Myers Briggs) with our pastor in pre-marital counseling, and I remember he had some concerns – something along the lines of wondering how we ever even got together.
Yeah, well, I don’t remember much as to what that was all about, but we seem to have satisfactorily navigated everything some 35 years later.
You might suspect I am a bit skeptical of all of this, but you would be only partially right. True, it used to drive me crazy, when the DiSC model was very popular, how people would talk about being a “high D,” “low S” or something like that, and assume everyone was supposed to know what they were talking about. I might have been the slightest bit uncooperative when attempts were made to engage me in casual conversation about it.
And today, even though I have some working knowledge of StrengthFinder and the Enneagram, I’m not going to be impressed if a person I have just met asks about my signature themes or my number. I’m not ready to accept it as universal language.
I have, however, come a long way in my thinking. I now admit –not even begrudgingly — that knowing some tendencies and inclinations of my co-workers, and learning that in a formal setting, has been helpful. I’ve seen the benefits.
My number-one signature theme in StrengthFinder is “developer,” with “empathy” not far behind. I have a passion for helping people grow and succeed and I can put myself in their shoes fairly easily. A colleague whose strengths include “competitive” or “achiever” might have a hard time relating to me, and I to her, but because we have learned each other’s inclinations we work better together.
Way back when my wife and I sat with our pastor and learned a little about each other and our respective wiring, I am certain it helped us handle some future situations.
I can’t remember exactly what they were, but I know I eventually learned I should not talk when she is talking. That took about 30 years.
If “quick study” is a characteristic among any of the personality models, I know that’s not me.
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.