"Square One: Personality Impacts Job Fit"

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Recently, one of my friends (let's call her Martha), the president of a very successful distribution business, lamented the firing of one of her key associates (Phyllis). Phyllis had been hired as a customer service rep in a new, telephone-based customer service effort that was acknowledged by Martha as a critical resource for her firm's growth in the next two years.
I had met both Martha and Phyllis at a trade show, and I was particularly impressed with the initiative and energy of Phyllis, the telemarketing freshman. However, when I ran her profile (we'll get to that in a moment), I could see she was under a lot of stress to be more like her boss, and less like herself. Her misguided zeal, to behave in an uncomfortable and unnatural way, would be her undoing.
Later when Martha told me that Phyllis was no longer with the firm, I was not surprised. What Martha had not done in the interviewing process was predetermine the behavior she needed, along with the skills and experience necessary, and then evaluate the impact Phyllis would have on her company.
Impact technology is what I want to share with you in this article. It will help you screen-out well-meaning ("Sure, I like talking on the phone!") misfits, who will not last as telemarketing professionals, and screen-in candidates who will enjoy the responsibilities you outline for them.
Hiring effective people has become a precarious undertaking in the last few years, and many company executives find themselves mired in the ruts of their less-than-successful experiences.
Why Has Hiring Become So Difficult?
Have you talked to a graduating college senior lately? The competition for good jobs is insane. Seniors spend so much time on the subject of getting hired, you'd think they could earn a Ph.D. in "hiring science." Young people are disciplined in the rigors of asking the right questions, dressing for success, and knowing when to smile and when to be assertive. In short, they're schooled on how to impress an inexperienced interviewer.
I'm fighting back! In 1928, a psychologist named William Marston wrote a book called The Emotions of Normal People. Although his text is too deep for most of us, the profile I mentioned earlier is a direct result of his work.
He theorized that everyone's personality is a blend of four basic characteristics: dominance (D), influence (I), steadiness (S) and compliance (C). Today, many refer to this concept as the "DISC" theory. Although the DISC theory has wide acceptance in psychology circles, businesspeople are just beginning to understand the power of Marston's behavior principles. Let me briefly explain these four qualities.
DISC Behavior Characteristics
A person who exhibits high "D," or dominant, behavior takes an aggressive, sometimes demanding approach to problems. He (or she) undertakes challenging assignments, and is not afraid to confront his boss when the situation doesn't suit him. This person is apt to say, "It's my way, or the highway."
Someone who displays high "I," or influencing, characteristics is friendly, persuasive and verbally aggressive. If you shut her (or him) in an office away from people or a telephone, her resume will back on the street before the day is done. She loves people and, correspondingly, has a strong desire to be "liked." If you ask her if she has a moment to talk, you're likely to get an earful!
Characteristic number three is high "S," or steady, behavior. This person is easily identified by his (or her) patience and loyalty. He is the one with the 20-year pin in his lapel, who can be counted on to be on the job day in and day out. With his "passive" aggressiveness, he will wait you out. He doesn't mind repetitive tasks, and prefers working on one thing at a time until it is completed. "Steady Eddie" describes him well.
The final behavior in this mix is the high "C," or compliant, individual. She (or he) wants to do things right the first time, every time; and displays this as "defensive" aggressiveness. Her emphasis on quality and accuracy can sometimes drive Ds to distraction, but organizations count on her dependability in positions where exactness matters. She fears your criticism of her work, so you'd better bring plenty of evidence to the table when you confront her with her mistakes.
What Makes An Effective Telemarketer?
Remember that what makes each of us unique is the specific blend of the four characteristics described. Very few of us display just one dominant characteristic. Most of us exhibit two primary behaviors and two recessive behaviors. Let me explain how this blend would occur in a typical customer representative (CSR) personality.

The dominant quality we seek in a CSR is the "S," steady and patient- a reactive, non-combative individual who listens well and is naturally empathetic to distraught callers. The second primary characteristic is the "I," or influence. The person with a moderately high "I" in his or her profile is friendly and persuasive, and enjoys the challenge of verbal dialog.
The one quality you don't want is the high "D." A confrontational person with a bent to disagree tends to heighten, instead of lessen, the emotions of dissatisfied callers. The fourth characteristic is the "C," or compliance, characteristic. I prefer the "C" to be rather high in the profile because this person has a tendency to follow the rules you have established, and not make them up as he or she goes along. This "ideal" CSR profile I depicted on this page.
You'll notice that I placed range boxes around the "Xs" in each of the D, I, S and C categories. However, you will rarely have the latitude to fill your headsets with "ideal" candidates. As this profile system predicts the impact a person will have on your organization, these boxes provide you with some flexibility as you seek qualified candidates. In no instance should this screening device be used to make the hiring decision.
This profile system is best used to filter-out candidates who will not last long in the position. Why will they quit? When you ask a person to use behavior that is not naturally strong in him (or her), you ask him to conjure up qualities that do not reinforce his self-esteem. It's like asking Robin Williams to stop joking around! Let's look at what happened to Phyllis.

An Example Of Evaluating Impact
Each profile produces two graphs. Graph I displays motivated style, the behavior a person demonstrates on the job, and Graph II depicts the innate, natural behavior. In the interviewing process, you should primarily concern yourself with Graph II (basic style). In addition, Graph I (motivated style) gives you an idea of the stress imposed on the person in his or her previous position. Phyllis' graphs are depicted on this page.
Phyllis has great potential, but not for the position of CSR. In Graph II, she exhibits great drive (high "D") and a high sense of urgency (high "D" - low "S"), she is optimistic and enthusiastic (high "I"), has great natural self-confidence (high "I" - low "C"), but is impatient and a sporadic listener (low "S"), and prefers to do things her own way instead of the way stipulated by her CSR manual.

About the Author

Arthur G. Schoeck is the President & CEO of Data Dome, Inc., located in Atlanta, Georgia. Arthur is a behavioral strategist and communications expert, specializing in style-based behavioral strategy. In recent years, over 15,000 executives, managers, and employees have benefited directly from his workshops and seminars. For further information on the latest assessment tools, products and services contact Data Dome, Inc. at www.datadome.com .