The Personality Divide

Patti Fralix

May 2007

It goes without saying that there are many differences in people, and that in those differences are often our strengths. Unfortunately, too often those strengths are not utilized because we expect the other person to be like us, and we get into unnecessary conflicts, expressed and unexpressed, over those differences. How can different people get along better at work and at home at home, maximizing the strengths of both?

Often the answer is in understanding personality differences, and communicating with other people based on their dominant driving forces. While personality differences are by no means the only difference in people, it is the one that we often have the best opportunity to understand quickly, and to manage our own behavior with other people from that knowledge. Like many things in life, it isn’t always easy, but it is often quite simple.

Personality as a discipline is not new. What is more recent is how businesses are utilizing personality-profiling tools in the workplace, especially in team building. The best teams are not people who are similar, but people who are different, especially related to personality. Too often, however, teams fail to capitalize on those differences, having unnecessary conflict and poor results.

There are four dominant personalities—S, A, U and C—and each have different driving forces, communication styles and strengths. While everyone has the four areas of personality, there is great variety in the dominance or weakness of those areas, and the resultant behavior. The four different personality types and the most likely combinations are as follows:

S Personalities. The "S” person is driven by Specifics, and is process and methodology oriented. This is the person who does not generalize, and who justifies with facts, figures, numbers and specifics. Most likely you know someone like this; when you ask this type of personality what time it is, he answers, "5:18.” When questioned about why he did not just say "about 5:15 or 5:20,” that person responds, "because it is 5:18!” To work best with this style, do not generalize. Communicate in specifics and use data to prove your point.

A Personalities. The "A” person is driven by Action. He will get things done quickly, even if it is not the right thing! This personality is also bottom-line and results oriented, as well as task oriented. This personality is often in a hurry and usually late! Getting one more thing done too often gets in the way of being exactly on time. This is the person who becomes impatient in meetings that aren’t going anywhere, and who loves teamwork—if he is in charge of the team! To work best with this person, get to the point quickly; he will ask for detail if he wants it.

U Personalities. The "U” person is driven by Understanding, both figuring things out as well as being understood. This person is intuitive, visionary and change oriented. This person does not need data to figure things out or to justify, and is comfortable with ambiguity. This is the person who talks out loud, figuring it out as he goes, often confusing others who think they have made a decision! This is also the one who others hear as argumentative, "trying to get their way,” because they take too much responsibility for explaining it better so others will get it! This is the person who (hopefully) spends a lot of time apologizing because they are better at telling others what they think than they are at listening. To work best with this style, allow time for processing ideas and thinking out loud. Also, expect them to question, challenge and disagree.

C Personalities. The "C” person is driven by Connection, and is group, relationship and team oriented. This person is the natural team player, the one that others think of as nice, friendly and easy to get along with. This is the person who is people oriented, who really cares what other people think, and is democratic and diplomatic in his dealings with others. This is also the one who does not deal easily with conflict and confrontation, specifically because they are so people oriented that they do not want to tell others what they might not want to hear! This style needs you to check in with them often, so they know that they are OK with you. Remember, connection is a need for them, not just a want. Make sure they are on teams.

There are many different combinations of personality types, including these common combinations:

The "S/A” person, the one who is both "Specifics” and "Action” oriented. This can be a strength area, when the individual is predictable but not rigid, and authoritative but not authoritarian. Unfortunately, too often managers have this profile, and their strength areas are so strong that they appear to others as the "know-it-all bureaucrat,” the one who tells others not just what to do but how to do it, to the extreme. Managers should avoid this behavior and not be so overly prescriptive that they lose the spirit and talent of others.

The "A/U” person, the one who is both independent and self-directed, and therefore cannot be controlled. This is the rebel, the one who will push and challenge the system. This is the individual who has the hardest time with teamwork, and yet who is too often allowed to run rampant, creating not just teamwork challenges but morale problems. This person is best working with a small group of hard-driving people in an entrepreneurial manner. They are also likely to start their own business. If they do start their own company, hopefully they will hire some "S” people, or they will be out of business quickly because they do not manage revenue and the bills don’t get paid!

The "A/C” person, the one who is a good profile for talent management, for this is the person who is good getting results working with and through other people. If you hire talent and let them soar, it should not matter "how” something is done, unless the work is legal or regulatory in nature.

The "S/C” person, the one who is good with specifics and process, and who is also good working with others. This profile is common in human resource positions, for traditionally human resources involves employee relations ("C” work) and regulatory and legal activities ("S” work).

It’s in the Sauce!™ The best teams include a combination of different personalities, playing to their strengths and depending on others for their weaker areas. Communicating effectively and maximizing the strengths of these different personalities is the key to teamwork and results. While this is not always easy, by understanding the differences and communicating with others based on their dominant style, good results and relationships can be accomplished.

About the Author
Patti Fralix, creator of The Sauce personality test, inspires positive change in work, life, and family through speaking, consulting and coaching. She is the author of the book How to Thrive in Spite of Mess, Stress and Less. As founder and president of The Fralix Group, Inc., a leadership excellence firm based in Raleigh, N.C., Fralix has spent the past 20 years providing practical solutions to audiences of all sizes.
For More Information
You can contact Fralix at pfralix@fralixgroup.com.