It is quite exhausting, trying to figure people out. Psychologists have tied themselves – and everyone else – into knots, trying to typecast entire corporate populations. Subject matter experts have spent lifetimes decoding the report book for everyone. Mollycoddling the distressed, facilitating them through their journey from denial to acceptance.
We just love pigeonholing people. It makes life easier to comprehend. Take the Zodiac – it’s like an industry! In the workplace too we classify people – and pay good money for it. From personality-types to management styles, everyone is one type or the other. There’s a new corporate language today, complete with acronyms. People even mention their ‘type’ on their CVs. Like it’s an achievement! Imagine the conversation:
“I’m an ABCD!”
“Oh really? How nice!”
“You just have to be a QRTY?”
“No, I’m a DBCP, actually”
“Huh? What’s that?”
“A ‘Don’t Believe in Confusing People’ type!”
Blackening circles (hopefully, honestly) helps people discover their ‘true’ selves. Wow! That workshop was such an eye-opener! So participative and what fun. For that kind of money, it’s the least they could be.
Armed with this self-awareness, people feel capable of having more engaging and productive interactions. Y’see, type indicators go beyond the information one can obtain from Google. They go deeper, to the person’s very characteristics – the part of the iceberg that sits underwater! Cool, eh!
Then, there are those leaders who appreciate the value of typecasting people – but prefer to focus on getting the job done. And everyone on the team, irrespective of personality type needs to get into the act or out of the team. Hey, that’s their type!
For the hard work put in, by psychologists, researchers and consultants – respect! But guys, isn’t work-life complicated enough. By forcing a complex bureaucracy of character-types, will people become ‘more effective’? For companies that can afford it, maybe…
For result-oriented leaders, work output determines employee types.
While conducting a leadership program for shop-floor staff, a facilitator classified people in four groups – best described in the vernacular:
- Chusth (perky/active): Enthusiastic, can-do attitude, ready learner. These are typically high performers and high potentials. They work smartly and independently. Getting things first-time-right, meeting timelines and exceeding expectations consistently, are their major attributes.
- Susth (lazy): Slow, distracted, resisting change, unwilling to learn. Rarely keeping commitments, they generally deliver average quality results, only after constant monitoring and nagging.
- Trasth (harried): In a permanent flap and running around like headless chickens, they are unable to deliver because they are unable to prioritize their tasks, their time, or determine their own capacity. So, everybody keeps waiting for something that is either half-done or going to start tomorrow. What a high-stress climate!
- Mast (fancy-free): In a permanent state of nirvana, even if the world is crashing all around! Rain or shine, rage or retrenchment, nothing affects this type. Surrounded by unfinished work and un-kept promises, this individual is a gold-card holder at most neighbourhood tea-shops. But, everyone agrees that he’s such a ‘wonderful person’. Always smiling, making everyone else happy and regularly sharing jokes on BBM. Only Bhai-chara (brotherliness) extracts some output, reluctantly. For everyone else it’s: “I’m here, na. Don’t worry!” Please do worry!
Remember, all the above people bring some fundamental abilities to the table – or they would not have been hired in the first place. Once type-cast, leaders can deploy styles determined by any known or homegrown inventory. Eg:
Chusth: Guidance to maintain focus and recognition to boost motivation, coupled with a training regimen to periodically upgrade skills.
Susth: A directive style works better. People get lethargic from lack of motivation, or lack of training and tend to develop a regressive willingness. Do, show, tell and micro-manage this lot until they turn around, or move on.
Trasth: Needs mentoring on how to prioritize work and recognize the limits of their capacity. Try the Urgent-Important model. This helps with calendarizing work for realistic commitments. Some project-management tools to break seemingly large assignments into smaller, bite-sized activities.
Mast: A dangerous lot. They’re such nice guys! Be aware that besides not doing much themselves, they also waste everyone else’s time. On their way to and from the smoking room or the water-cooler, or cafeteria, they make several pit stops. They distract other colleagues with idle chatter or pull them away from their work and into their happy club. Get real, get tough: counsel=> warn=> PIP=> fire. Expect some to turn around – be happy and thank them. The rest will voluntarily attrite – be happy and thank your stars!
Yes, the smiles of some experienced leaders are justified. For them, the penny has dropped. There are frowns too. What a gross over-simplification! Agreed!
But, just reflect for a while – please…