In the middle of March 2016, I went on a trip to London, but ended holed up in my hotel room nursing an illness. In the midst of boredom, I started to watch Ted talks on youtube.
One of the talks, “Your Personality and Your Brain ” by Scott Schwefel, was so thought-inspiring that I made X D watch it wth me again when he returned from sightseeing.
Scott started by reminding us that the first step to understanding one’s personality was to be aware of ourselves, which could even be the batting of the eyelids. Following self-awareness, one should then start noticing the otherness of others.
After the initial round of observation, the theoretical part, was the introduction of the 4 quadrants (which was like other personality indicators like MBTI), namely Fiery Red (“Doers”; aggressive), Sunshine Yellow (“Extravert”; flamboyant), Earth Green (“Carer”; empathetic) and Cool Blue (“Thinker”; information gatherer).
X D and I then went on one round of exercise deciding individually who we think we were and who we think the other party was. Unsurprisingly, how others view us tend to be different from how we see ourselves.
Immediately after my trip, I went on a 3-day “S.P.O.T Workshop”, which was training to be a Process Facilitator. One of the competencies of a facilitator was to be able to handle different types of participants and so, one should be good with a form of personality indicator. Interestingly, the recommended indicator was Strength Deployment Inventory, which also used colours to indicate 3 personality types, the Red (Assertive-Directive; “Doer”), the Blue (Altruistic-Nurturing; “Carer”) and the Green (Analytic-Autonomising; “Thinker”).
There was a shift in allocation of colours, but the underlying principle was simple, there are people who Do, people who Plan and people who Care.
In a typical workplace, however, there is this prioritisation for people who Do, followed by people who Plan and then… there’s no place for Carers in the workplace. Bosses want work done, and they either think that they are playing the role of Planners already, or they think Doing is a form of “thinking done”. Either way, many KPIs or scoreboard tend to focus on the ability to Do rather than to Think or Strategise. This also gave rise to a load of assumptions that Extraverts are more valuable because they tend to be out there doing when compared to Introverts who tend to spend time processing their thoughts and ideas before presenting them.
It is the mention of Extraversion that brings to topic that there is also another valued characteristic that, interestingly, is prized over Thinkers. And considering how these people are always on an escalated promotion path, they sometimes triumph over the Doers.
These are the Storytellers.
One of my struggles to be a trainer was the fact that I’m not a born storyteller. I know of happenings within and without my social circles; I have my own experience, but I was not known in my social circles to be one who were always sharing stories of overcoming obstacles or the hunt for good food. To me, training was the process of helping people internalise knowledge. Anecdotes are just one of the ways to enhance retention in learning, so I only honed that aspect of competency to complement my training proficiency.
However, people are attracted to stories and they tend to display favourable attitudes towards people who are storytellers (who tend to have extraverted characteristics, by the way), because storytellers make others feel involved, and fill up a part of life that they did not get to live (hence the rise of Instagram ‘influencers’).
I recall how one of my flamboyant colleagues, not known to be one who can carry out a procedure from start to finish, ended up being promoted once and again. Granted, it was due to his paper qualifications, but everyone else knew him more as the chatter, the one who is always up and about. And naturally, he always got the limelight and when asked for display of evidence for work done, they are remembered more vividly through their stories.
This is not an entry on the merits of each characteristics, but a reminder to us that, despite all the inspiring talks to tell us to embrace our own personality, what is truly valued in the workplace may not be what we are born with.
Those who wield the power to recruit or promote tend to look for the most obvious, outward characteristics. Storytellers can tell their achievements on the spot; Doers can chronicle what they have done by showing certificates or references (Doers and Storytellers have overlaps, but there exists plain doers); Thinkers are only slowly regarded as assets for their potential leadership qualities, but since Loafers also like to pretend to be Thinkers, the latter is in danger of being brushed aside for being slow on the job; Carers, in a workplace of the new economy, may actually be gaining more popularity than the Thinkers, since ‘caring’ is also an obvious, observable act.