Doing the Job
Imagine you are successful at your role. Your employer rewards you well financially with generous salary rises and arbitrary bonuses. You have been promoted frequently and there is a steady flow of those ego-enhancing headhunt calls offering big salaries and exciting challenges. In terms of performance, you are very successful at ‘doing the job’.
This will coach you on how to achieve this goal.
Each individual’s circumstances are unique. Your skills, personality and aspirations are unique.
You may be taking up a new role with the company you have been with for some years, or it may be a new role with new people or a new market or a new organisation. Whatever the scenario, you will find the following helpful. The advice is based on my experience of coaching for performance improvement. Facilitating, instructing and coaching candidates on how best to apply their skills and talents is rewarding when the transparent outcome is always the achievement of greater success and higher goals.
The desire to improve is a universal aspiration and the will to act on this desire normally replicates an ambitious, successful candidate. To improve, you must acknowledge that you can do better. To improve also means you are receptive in terms of learning and listening to new recommendations, and the corollary to these characteristics is a candidate who is flexible, adaptable and continually enhances their progress in terms of performance improvement.
The work environment is never static. It is dynamic, fast moving, exciting and challenging, and to keep in step it is logical that successful candidates will invest training time to ensure that they recognise and positively manage the change factors.
I have adopted these important factors in my recommendations. The focus is on your strengths and their application. ‘How can I be more reactive, more adaptable – personal skills that are critical in today’s globally-influenced employment market?’ Identifying your individual and, of course, unique corporate work profile, will enable you to know your strengths, avoid your weaknesses and improve your performance.
How it works
There are three essential categories of interaction that take place in a corporate environment:
- Communicating one-to-one when dealing with colleagues and clients
- Communicating your skills at external interviews and internal appraisals
- Communicating in groups at meetings, internally and with clients
You will have learned how to communicate effectively on a one-to-one basis in the section Discover Your Personality, when you will have identified your personality type and its subsequent interactive style. The Interview Profiler concentrates exclusively on interview technique for external and internal appraisals.
This section will coach you on how to perform more successfully in work situations and group discussions. You will find it instructional and the content can be applied to all work situations – there are no exceptions.
Usually, we attend meetings on an ‘ad hoc’ basis and our engagement is determined by ‘going with the flow’.
Our opinion of the meeting will vary from boring and inconclusive to interesting and dynamic, from contentious and argumentative to friendly and co-operative.
The Programme format will ensure that you personally give an impressive and positive performance, whatever the general tone and management.
This is a fascinating topic and one from which you can gain real personal benefit. You will, throughout your working life, attend meetings and you may attend committee meetings as part of your social commitments. The meetings will vary enormously. They will be formal, informal, exciting, boring, dynamic, mundane, decisive, inconclusive, interesting, brief and far too long. And depending on the Chair, the subject and the participants, the tone will be equally variable from lively, flat, friendly, co-operative to truculent, aggressive, contentious and inconclusive.
Anticipating and preparing for the dynamic format and tone of any meeting is difficult. What you can do definitively and effectively is to train yourself to make an influencing and successful contribution to group discussions in a way that you will be regarded as a competent participant. You will gain credibility and respect amongst your colleagues and you will be perceived as a positive contributor in meetings – the one who always asks the salient questions, whose opinions and advice are highly relevant and whose recommendations are always helpful and constructive.
Clearly, there are many factors that dictate the nature of your participation in a group meeting: your persona type, your role at the meeting, your familiarity with the discussion, and how senior or junior you are in relation to the other participants.
The active and structured participants are positive contributors to group discussions and my objective is to coach you to ensure that you belong to one of these categories.
I would describe the active type as frequently engaging with discussion, and doing so positively, relevantly and constructively. I would attribute a similar performance to the structured type who behaviourally is also a successful participant. By comparison, they engage less frequently but when they do their opinions and commentary are valued.
A skill of many successful executives is their ability to develop and steer positive and productive discussion and to encourage the quiet type to be more participatory.
Most of us at some stage have taken part in meetings and, whether through shyness or just plainly ‘can’t think of anything to say’, have made no contribution and did not feel happy about it.
Others may feel that they talk far too much at a meeting and didn’t enjoy the reprimand from the Chair to ‘Let someone else have a chance to speak’. The reaction to such a veiled criticism is normally to stay quiet deliberately and not take any further part, or to put it in the vernacular – to sulk.
When we take part in meetings we can describe our engagement or what we say as an opinion, a question or a comment and spontaneously we normally use a combination of all three. When we are coaching different personality types to successfully interact at meetings, we demonstrate how to apply these techniques to live situations.
If you are chairing a meeting, you can practise using opinion, questioning and commentary to maximise the collective involvement of the participants and create an environment that is enjoyable, productive, focused and, from the perspective of the agenda, conclusive.
Participation – verbal techniques
To demonstrate the structure and context of these techniques, familiarise yourself with the terminology.
Goal – group
To discuss and debate the agenda to arrive at goals that are the result of the intellectual input of the group.
Goal – self
To act as facilitator, identifying common denominators and building and promoting a collaborative discussion.
We are familiar with the approach of someone we would describe as being opinionated: ‘I think..., I know..., I disagree...’ I discourage this type of participation and encourage a more objective approach, expressing opinion through the impersonal methods: ‘Should we consider...? How important do we think...? Some parties might disagree and believe that...’ Expressing your opinion in the third person encourages collaborative discussion and a more encouraging democratic and explanatory platform. Practise and adopt this style.
Adopt a similar approach as outlined in opinion above. Endeavour to focus your question on the group rather than an individual: ‘To what extent is it important? Should we omit the issue of...? Have we sufficiently justified...?’ This encourages the group to engage with your questions rather than you and promotes more qualitative debate.
The commentary method is similar to opinion and question, whereby you identify relevant points and make positive endorsements as to their significance and compatibility. This is an effective style of participation. Identify points made that are highly relevant to the agenda and encourage development:
‘That is a very interesting point, which adds a new dimension to
strategic global determination. Perhaps we should discuss its implications in terms of...’
‘The point Sarah made on critical path analysis endorses David’s theory on the optimum method. We could also effectively apply...’
Practise and adopt these styles, applying them singularly and interactively, and you will be a very productive participant at any meeting. This style gives you entry points – you don’t have to wait for that big ego question or posing statement. You may note the absence of judgemental confrontational statements. ‘That’s right! That’s wrong! That’s irrelevant! I totally disagree!’ – a provocative style that blocks debate and is not intellectually rigorous.
The first coaching stage is to refer to the description of your personality type, and I shall then describe your particular personality behaviour as a participant or Chair of a meeting. Ad hoc meetings tend to be less successful than those where there is a clear and planned focus and direction as to its structure and objectives, but using your personality strengths and my interactive model, you can successfully participate, whatever the circumstances.
Participation – preparation
These are the main factors you should know before attending any meeting. You may have to consult different colleagues to ascertain the information. If the meeting is well organised, then the pre-briefing will be clear and easily obtainable. ‘Difficult to find’ information will not inspire confidence and indicates a potentially poor outcome. When you are aware of a meeting, you should request the following information from colleagues or your manager by email or phone (remember preparation is key and the trait of a successful and focused executive):
- Time, duration and location.
- Your role and potential contribution.
- Preparation – references, pre-reading, research.
- Objectives and goals.
- Members attending.
- Agenda composition and dominant issues.
When you are taking part, you should ‘TAG’ the discussion as an ongoing task:
T – be aware of Time.
A – refer constantly to your Agenda.
G – always keep Goals in sight.
This will help you to keep your contribution focused and relevant.
You can engage with the group by opinion, question and commentary, and you should use a combination of these basic formats to engage with the conversation.
The Analyst, for example, may feel that they should only talk when there is something new to say. However, they can enter the discussion powerfully through commentary. ‘David’s point of using historic data which Sarah has formulated sounds sensible. Could that be the best path to follow to reach a provisional figure for this meeting?’ – a positive contribution using a collaborative style, respecting others’ views, contextually placing them and making a conclusive commentary.
Many senior executives will encourage this democratic technique to ensure that they get the best from the participants and reach successful conclusions. Using these techniques discourages participants and Chairpersons from adopting autocratic and bullying positions to canvass and implement their selfish views. The collaborative technique is most frequently adopted by Managing Directors when they are conducting Board meetings for large multinational organisations.
The agenda may include the ratification of the Report and Accounts, Compliance Reviews, Mergers, Acquisitions and Divestment Reports, Shareholders’ and Stakeholders’ Interest, Performance Reviews, Marketing Strategy – the list is endless. A key point here is not to feel that you must contribute something new or say something that sounds important – verbal posturing is not necessary.
Practise active engagement at your next meeting using opinion, question and commentary and you will be surprised at the positive reaction it promotes – all part of developing a successful work profile and an excellent skill for ‘doing the job’.
Your personality at meetings
Knowing your personality type and understanding how that relates to you being in charge or being a member of a meeting is insightful, and offers a platform to apply the verbal engagement techniques. At this stage, you will have already identified your personality type and strengths. In the next section, I will demonstrate how you can apply that knowledge to your role in meetings.
The Supporter – chairing a meeting
The Supporter will enjoy this role, especially when there is no conflict. They will find it difficult to manage ‘personality clashes’ as their spontaneous inclination is to develop harmonious relationships and collaboration amongst all parties.
When chairing a meeting, the Supporter should actively encourage the participants to focus on the objectives and agenda. They should lead, control and manage discussions through prompts, endorsing commentary and contributions that are agenda relevant.
Focusing predominately on content rather than personalities will help curtail ‘verbal ramblings’ and ensure that the meeting concludes positively, having successfully achieved its objectives.
The Supporter – in a meeting
The Supporter should endeavour to focus on the objectives and agenda, concentrating on the points made rather than the people making them. The Supporter has strong people skills and will therefore have a tendency to prejudge comments in accordance with who made them. They must depersonalise conversations. When the Supporter remains task focused, they will make strong positive contributions and play a pivotal role in productively gelling discussions in group meetings. They have a popular persona that creates a tendency of agreement rather than argument – a positive influential contributor.
The Influencer – chairing a meeting
Articulate, friendly, talkative, positive, cheerful – this is the normal persona the Influencer will project to the group members.
The Influencer must manage their own participation and be careful not to constantly ‘hog the limelight’. They are good at managing personality clashes. They have a wonderful propensity to develop and encourage positive discussion and ensure that each member has the opportunity to participate.
The Influencer must see themselves in a steerage role and curtail verbal over-indulgence on their part. When focusing exclusively on the agenda and the objectives, and recognising that chairing a meeting is an exciting challenge, then the Influencer can be a Chair par excellence.
The Influencer – in a meeting
The Influencer loves verbal engagement in all its forms – opinion, argument and commentary. They are active and popular participants and it is more in their nature to endorse points made than to take a disagreeable or argumentative stance. They must be prepared to accept criticism. Their strong ego means there is a strong inclination to be defensive of their own opinion.
The Influencer must manage their contributions, ensuring that they are not excessive or irrelevant and the points made not too verbally elongated. This is a personality type with the propensity to be an excellent participant.
The Creative – chairing a meeting
The Creative is predominately task focused and is, therefore, competent at chairing meetings as they will concentrate on the agenda. They have an active ‘let’s go’ mentality and will ensure that the meeting fulfils its objectives within the agreed time. There is a tendency for them to ‘shout down’ what they consider to be irrelevant points, if their creative argument is challenged, and thereby alienate participants from the discussion. The Creative should conscientiously adopt a diplomatic style, however alien to their normal persona, and be sympathetic to different personality types.
The objective of the Chair is to encourage all participants to positively participate and that strategy, complemented by their natural ability to focus on the goals, will enable the Creative to successfully manage group meetings.
The Creative – in a meeting
The Creative is dynamic and proactive and may have to practise tolerance and patience in meetings that they consider are rambling off the point or are poorly led.
The Creative is a naturally positive participant in group discussions and will make contributions that are relevant, constructive and innovative. They will role reverse in terms of time. Chairing a meeting, they will have a strong time focus but, as a participant, they will tend to disregard time limits and concentrate on the agenda, particularly if the conversation is exciting and challenging. The Creative gets bored easily if the meeting is poorly managed.
The Analyst – chairing a meeting
The Analyst is naturally task focused and will adhere strongly to the agenda and objectives of the meeting. They may have difficulty curtailing the verbally over-enthusiastic Influencer, as this requires a person-to-person engagement rather than a task-focused engagement.
To manage these typical scenarios, the Analyst will have to constantly refer the participants to the agenda, objectives and agreed time allocation. The Analyst is structured and methodical in their management style. ‘Blue sky thinking’ or ‘brain storming’ are considered more esoteric thought processes and, as these processes are without a logical base, they are considered time wasting and non-productive. Analysts are strong at chairing meetings, but participants should not expect any radical conclusions or off the wall ideas.
The Analyst – in a meeting
‘Quiet, thoughtful, contemplative, doesn’t say much,’ is how the other members might describe the Analyst. The Analyst engages when they believe there is something relevant to say and a point in saying it.
To participate more actively the Analyst should refer to my coaching recommendations and use the opinion/commentary techniques for positive engagement. Having implemented the coaching recommendations, the Analyst will prove to be a vital, structured and productive participant in group meeting sessions.
Review the advice pertaining to your personality type and understand how to engage positively during meetings. Adopt the TAG discipline and practise your participation using the opinion, question and commentary methods. When you integrate all three factors, you will have the skills and confidence to make a significant contribution to any group discussion.
Progress review meetings – annual appraisals
To gain the most benefit from your job, it is important to know how well you are performing in terms of what is expected of you. Firstly, list your normal duties and responsibilities. Then, note those activities that you regard as not productive and list new responsibilities that you would like to add to your role.
Arrange a review meeting with your manager. It is important, firstly, to establish what your manager considers to be your main duties and responsibilities. Discuss your recommendations and send a summary of the meeting, outlining the new agreed parameters. Arrange a review meeting every six months.
There are many benefits from this regular formal interaction. It will help your manager in the performance of their role. There will be a link and crossover in your duties and responsibilities and the meeting will add a new focus. It will elevate your status. Requesting review meetings indicates an ambitious and conscientious employee.
These meetings are particularly beneficial when you start a new role. It will help you to settle in more quickly. ‘But that was not in the job description,’ is a common plea by candidates in a new job. Meet your manager as soon as possible to gain a clear outline of your role. You can ascertain the aspects that are prescriptive and those activities that require your own initiative. This will give you a clear benchmark to measure your own performance.
Frequently, when candidates join a new organisation their expectations are high and they can be disappointed and demotivated when colleagues appear non-co- operative and unfriendly – we know from personality profiling that the Supporter and Influencer will be highly sensitive to the working atmosphere. When you have discussed and agreed your role parameters and goals, you will have a well-defined measure of your performance and you will be less susceptible to, or influenced by, peripheral issues such as atmosphere or work environment.
The work environment is demanding and change is not viewed as a separate influencing factor, but rather as an endemic phenomenon. Globalisation has increased competitiveness and put more pressure on margins. On the one hand, this speeding up has created a more dynamic, exciting and challenging commercial climate but, on the other hand, it means employers have higher expectation levels in terms of staff output. A review meeting will ensure you understand and meet yours.
Listening skills and the Four Personality Profiles
The Supporter is a good listener and will react in sympathy with their company. In other words, if they are in the company of the Influencer, they will do the listening or, if they are in the company of the Analyst, they will do the talking. The Supporter is a people person and therefore much of their conversations will be people centric. Sympathy and unselfishness are the Supporter’s traits and they will demonstrate this emphasis in their people interactions. The Supporter will be reactive and quiet in the company of a verbally truculent person. To interact, they must depersonalise the conversation and engage on a non-people basis.
The Influencer is a poor listener. The fact that we describe the Influencer as articulate, a persuader and good at business development means that they will not have a good listening style. Despite their prominent ego, the Influencer should not consider the poor listening tag as a criticism. Good listening and poor listening styles are dichotomous.
The Influencer must work hard at improvement and endeavour to adopt the parallel listening method as described. The Influencer can practise by omitting the ‘I’ in conversation, not being opinionated and introducing commentary, ‘That’s interesting and how did you…?’ We all have friends whom we would like to phone to ask for some information, but wonder if we have that much spare time to listen to a self-indulgent verbal presentation.
The Creative has a good listening style. They engage in active conversation, which normally is unselfish in its content. They are not political people and can engage with many subjects. Their creative mind means they explore new perspectives and enjoy lively interactions. Conversationally fast and alert, yet argumentative if the need arises aptly describes their personality. A Creative is a good listener with a flexible adaptive style.
The Analyst is a good listener and their platform for conversation will be factual and relational. Small talk is not part of their verbal repertoire. The Analyst can be too reclusive in conversation and should engage the commentary method when they are a participant at meetings. The elaboration/explanation style as explained earlier is useful for the Analyst to engage more interactively in one-to-one or group discussions. The Analyst’s thought style is retrospective rather than the creation of new conversational topics. The Analyst is a good communicator who can cultivate a more interactive style with experience.
Your Personality Profile and Stress
The Supporter and stress
The Supporter is sensitive to the work environment from the people perspective. An aggressive and uncaring atmosphere at work will cause the Supporter stress. An aggressive and uncaring colleague or manager at work will similarly cause stress. The Supporter’s natural inclination is to avoid contentious situations rather than confront them, as this is not compliant with their sensitive nature.
Domineering or bullying types will tend to capitalise on the Supporter’s rather placatory persona and their behaviour can become more intimidating and stressful. It is difficult to coach a Supporter to deal with these types of extreme behaviour on their own. The most successful approach is to ask for help and discuss the situation with a work colleague or manager. For the situation to be effectively dealt with, it is imperative that the perpetrator is contacted by a third party and made aware of the complaint. In many situations, the person may not be aware of the extent of their intimidating behaviour and most often their response is conciliatory rather than defensive.
In my experience, this type of action generates a personal apology and a cessation of the problem.
The Supporter must be prepared to ask for help and refer to a colleague and follow the colleague’s advice to actively confront the situation. Taking no course of action will cause the stress to increase and create a situation of unhappiness and severe pressure on the work and family environment. Ignoring the issue is not an option.
The Influencer and stress
The Influencer thrives on recognition and acknowledgement of achievements. They are generally not prone to stress, as they tend to share their problems with whomever is prepared to listen. This sharing, or to put it more unkindly off-loading, means that problems don’t tend to fester in their minds. If a problem arises, the Influencer will not naturally volunteer ownership if it reflects negatively on their reputation.
The Influencer has a large ego and they are protective of their reputation, vehemently defending any misunderstanding that negatively reflects on their personality or achievements. If the Influencer is wrongly accused and the accusation reflects negatively on them, they will ‘move verbal mountains’ to clarify the situation and rectify the mistake that dents their ego.
Situations where the Influencer is not given due credit for performance or is misunderstood will cause stress. The Influencer plays to win and if there is no benchmark for competitiveness and high profiling, then they will become frustrated and bored. Work that is highly repetitive, monotonous and with no transparent goals for achievement will cause them frustration and the likelihood of changing roles.
Not gaining fair recognition, not being able to perform competitively, being misunderstood, misinterpreted or being falsely accused are the dominant situations that will cause stress to the Influencer. The Influencer can solve their own problems as they are good with people and highly articulate. Therefore, if they do not have the opportunity to perform or clear their name, the Influencer will feel caged and these circumstances would be intolerably stressful.
The Creative and stress
For the Creative, the causal factor for stress will be work related. The Creative has been described as a well-defined personality type with individual traits. The ability to conceptualise is unique. The ability to create is unique to the Creative whether it is a product, a building, a musical composition, fine art, media or graphics, etc. all of which are different, radical and instrumental in the generation of global sales on an unprecedented basis.
Unlike the other personality traits where one can identify a single factor which is the dominant cause of stress, the Creative can be negatively influenced and frustrated by a number of factors. Working in a highly-disorganised environment, unable to use their design and creative abilities and working in a role that lacks challenge or is repetitive and boring, are factors that singularly or collectively will cause the Creative to be stressed. Similarly, an environment where their talents are not appreciated but disregarded and critiqued, will cause the Creative to lose confidence in their abilities and the resultant lack of benefit of their work will cause stress. They are not good at just ‘playing the game’. Very often, the only solution is to change role or job, advice which will probably clarify or explain why Creatives change roles more than the average or why they often prefer to work freelance.
The Creative could be coached to adopt a more tolerant attitude, but that approach is more likely to be at the expense of losing some of that positive dynamism that can be the key to their success.
The Analyst and stress
Similar to the Creative, the fact that will cause the most stress to the Analyst will be poor project definition and time. It will be directly work related. The Analyst views the developmental perspective in parallel with the end goal. Their mentality is such that diligently fulfilling the role to a satisfactory technical conclusion is their prime focus – time deadlines can, at times, be secondary considerations.
If there is a time overrun and the cause is outside the control of the Analyst, most often they will not explain this fact. Anything smacking of an excuse is anathema to the Analyst. They do not vehemently defend their corner as the Influencer would do and they do not indulge in blame culture. The Analyst needs to be convinced that the time target is real and that the overrun consequences are also real.
‘They always want things done by yesterday. They don’t understand the complexity of the content. You can’t rush these things. They are complicated and you have to get it right however long it takes.’
This type of typical reaction from the Analyst can cause frustration to those to whom they are reporting and the Analyst will not enjoy the criticism this type of insular reaction will invoke. To alleviate the stress from ‘unprovoked negative reactions’ (as an Analyst might consider), the Analyst must explain in detail the components of the task in terms of content, complexity parameters and the aspects which, at the early stages, may not be definitive. A car engine may appear to have a particular fault as a result of the noise it is making, but the mechanic will make the proviso that they cannot ascertain the problem until they dismantle the particular parts and examine it personally. The Analyst must explain the process even though it is not their natural remit. This will share the time onus in terms of defining a target and alleviate the stress caused by overrunning the target.
Detailed explanations help to depersonalise situations and by continually briefing colleagues on the progress of the task, the Analyst will fend off those stressful, irate reactions to their apparent lack of time priorities.