The philosopher and author Jean-Paul Sartre famously wrote, “Hell is other people.” For too many entrepreneurs, that’s the unfortunate truth.
We all need to surround ourselves with great people—in and out of the office—to have the success we seek and the great lives we strive toward. That might include partners and employees, other professionals outside of our firms with whom we work regularly, and even the experts we seek out to manage our money and handle other key aspects of our lives.
As business owners, however, we may be so used to calling the shots and doing everything ourselves that we find it hard to play nice in the sandbox with others. Even if you’re a highly outgoing “people person,” chances are you still run into situations where you butt heads with somebody in your orbit who could help you get what you want.
The solution: better understand ourselves and the other people we have the privilege of working with and serving. For some insights into that, we recently enlisted the help of a renowned behavioral profiler, Steven Sisler, who works with business owners as well as other teams, families and spouses as the founder of The Behavioral Resource Group. Sisler measures people’s personalities and key character traits based on four key areas of assessment—anger, optimism, patience and fear—to help determine how they view both their inner worlds (themselves) and their outer worlds (others). Our level of intensity in each of these areas dictates our actions.
The importance of profiling behavior—yours and others’
We all know that before hiring someone or taking on a partner, it’s important to conduct a thorough background check on that person. (We might not do it, but we know we should.)
But it’s just as important to conduct a behavioral background check on that person. The reason: If you bring in someone whose hardwired way of looking at the world conflicts with your brain’s hardwired worldview, it’s unlikely that person will contribute to your success at a high-enough level to make your investment in that person worthwhile.
Even worse, you could overlook or reject an amazing potential candidate if you don’t recognize the unique strengths that person brings to the table thanks to his or her hardwired behavioral tendencies. That’s especially true if you focus too much on the person’s weak traits you don’t like.
Example: Sisler offers an example of a salesperson who was hired and trained for three months. The company was preparing to fire him because he consistently forgot his laptop at home and demonstrated similar behaviors that annoyed his very organized regional manager. Sisler profiled the salesman and discovered that not only did he have ADHD, but he also had behavioral traits that showed him to be excellent at making connections with people. So he advised the company to try out the salesman in the field for 90 days.
Result: The salesman made the biggest sale in the company’s history and started recovering sales they had lost. Says Sisler: “They realized his gift was relationships and hobnobbing. Was he good at dotting his i’s and crossing his t’s? No! But because they allowed him to do what his brain type does best, they reaped huge benefits.”
A look at three behavioral orientations
Sisler points out that a handful of primary behavioral orientations are the drivers behind everyone’s behavior. Knowing them will help you start to recognize your own orientation and its implications on how you act, manage, hire, fire and partner up—as well as start to grasp others’ orientations so you can recognize their strengths and weaknesses.
Here’s a look at three of them.
Entrepreneurs with the Taking orientation believe that anything they desire lies outside of themselves and therefore must be taken—by force. Everything and everyone becomes a means to an end. They also always see others as having more than they have—thus requiring more taking and amassing for themselves.
If you have the Taking orientation, you will likely be inclined to hire people who will make things easy for you and get you to your goals by working long and hard whenever necessary. You don’t want to be surrounded by people who push back.
Pro tip: Make sure the people you surround yourself with also ask the right questions and are detail-oriented so the job you ask them to do right away is done well. If you hire only people who are as “big picture” as you likely are, key details can get overlooked.
With an Attracting orientation, you believe people are commodities with a market value. People and things can be attractive and thus wanted. The better the presentation, the higher the value—and who you know/who your connections take precedence over what you know.
But people with this orientation often don’t leverage their connections because they fear that asking for help would show them to be weak and needy. They don’t take the opportunity to advance their companies through their relationships with great people—even though those people are exactly what they need. Their heightened awareness concerning what others think about what they are doing will cause them to make emotional decisions. This can be a problem when the emotion wears off and all that remains are the real-world results of the decisions.
Here again, if you know this is your orientation, you can take steps such as hiring other people (or partnering with someone) who can make more objective decisions that aren’t governed by the fear of being rejected or being mischaracterized.
People with a Responding orientation also believe that all things of value are found from outside sources. But instead of seeking to take, they believe valuable results will eventually show up—that they have to receive it. They exhibit tremendous patience—reacting to outside forces rather than making things react to them and be what they want them to be or do what they want them to do.
Entrepreneurs with this orientation can achieve big success—but they need to have people in their businesses and their lives with different orientations to balance out some of their passivity and tendency to refuse change.
Example: Often entrepreneurs with the Responding orientation will start to view employees almost like family members. If employees then don’t work out, these business owners might wait for the problem to resolve itself—which, of course, rarely happens. Only when a situation reaches a crisis point are they willing to take action. So it can be valuable to have people in senior positions who are both more dispassionate and able to stay flexible and decisive. These key people can serve as important “reality checks” when you need them most.
Ultimately, by knowing how we tend to operate and make business decisions, we can start to tweak our processes and actions to get better results. For example, say you’re a highly emotional decision-maker whose decisions can change without much warning. That can make team members uncomfortable, because they feel they’re always doing their best just to keep up with what they see as your indecisiveness or ever-changing directions. Instead of making an emotion-based decision next time, pick up the phone and run your plan by a logical left-brain personality you trust.
That check can stop you from making a wrong decision or confirm what you want to do and enable you to commit fully to it.
Indeed, knowing how your brain drives your decisions can help you surround yourself with other people who have different, complementary personality traits that will help ground you, motivate you or keep you focused on what really counts in your company.
Important: Keep in mind that you might not be aligned in many ways with people who don’t share your orientation. They may not be people you want to spend a lot of free time with—but if you ensure that some of them are around you and available to you, you will enhance your ability to succeed.
Action step: Remember that running your business effectively with the right people is only part of what it takes to achieve your goals. Contact your financial professional to help make sure you’re taking the steps to reaching your financial goals both inside and outside of your business.