Years ago, when I first completed the Behavior Style profile in a People Skills workshop, I learned that I was a Persuader. This means that I enjoy working with others, appreciate enthusiastic and supportive co-workers, and am more interested in how fast something can be accomplished than in the planning and details required to get it done. Even today I know that I live in a “close enough” world and can be frustrated by those who slow down the process with lots of questions and reasons why something can’t happen.
During that workshop, I was introduced to the concept of a “potentially toxic” style. This style is essentially the opposite of one’s own, and individuals with that style prefer to behave quite differently than you do. For example, the potentially toxic style to a Persuader is an Analyzer (as a Controller is to a Stabilizer, and vice versa). When it comes to feelings and social situations, Persuaders are quite demonstrative and open, while Analyzers are rather reserved and cautious. In terms of decisions and getting things done, Persuaders generally make quick decisions and are eager to check things off their list. Analyzers on the other hand, are thoughtful, methodical, and are more concerned with getting it right. I remember thinking at the time that I was sure glad my boss was also a Persuader. She was fun, understood me, and was actually even more “Persuadery” than I was!
As a training & development professional, for years I have worked with and for individuals who enjoyed the limelight and who sought to use their creativity to develop and deliver entertaining learning events. They had strong verbal skills and were able to leverage their charisma to meet the needs of their learners—in other words, other Persuaders. My working relationships were also close friendships and the idea of working for someone outside of that tribe made me nervous. Could I do it? I wasn’t sure!
Potentially Toxic or Potentially Powerful
About six years ago, I had the opportunity to find out. After a year-long search, my organization brought in a new Chief of Human Resources. Let’s call her Nicole. During the selection process she was calm, straightforward, and patient as the members of her future team described what we needed in a new boss. Once she started, she seemed friendly yet reserved and somewhat hard to get to know. It seemed that becoming “fast friends” was not on her agenda. Her outward behavior gave her preferred style away. Nicole was an Analyzer.
So were my fears justified? Did “potentially toxic” become downright toxic or something else? Let’s start with what was challenging. As a Persuader who is emotionally responsive—an open book when it comes to my feelings—it was difficult to connect when I didn’t know how Nicole really felt about people and events at work. She was the consummate professional, and like a good parent, she seemed to love us all the same and never succumbed to gossip or outward displays of affection or frustration. She had an uncanny ability to quickly identify errors or weaknesses in my work, and simply responded by asking questions, gently guiding me to recognize where I had gone wrong. Lastly, as someone who loves tackling something new, my desire to take fast action versus her desire to consider the facts and determine the implications of her decisions often left me drumming my fingers and tapping my toes waiting for a green light.
[Read “I Used to Be a Jerk Leader“]
Best Boss I’ve Ever Had
Despite these obstacles and the lack of personal connection, I consider Nicole to be the best boss I’ve ever had. What made it work? At first, it was my respect for her position. After all, she was my boss and I had a vested interest in getting along with her. Later that respect grew out of my admiration for her skills, experience, and approach to the work. Though I’ll likely never be as detail-oriented, thoughtful, or thorough as she is, over the years I improved in those areas and strived to meet her expectations.
Most importantly, what made it work was her integrity. She was committed to the mission and values of the company and to the success of the people around her. It’s often said that Analyzers want to “get it right” not to “be right.” For an emotionally intelligent Analyzer, it’s not about ego; it’s about the goal and the success of the team. When things went wrong, and they often did, she remained calm and demonstrated confidence in my skill-set and in the abilities of my coworkers. Nicole understood and leveraged our differences and led us through smooth and rough seas building trust with each wave of change.
Though our opposite style can be “potentially toxic,” they also have the makings to be the most powerful relationships we have. For example, many of us find that our life partners have the preferred Behavior Style opposite our own. How does that work? Because when trust and respect are in place, the differences in their approach complement our own and we cover each other’s blind spots.
Now, as an independent contractor, I’m my own boss. While that brings many rewards, I will miss Nicole’s perspective. Fortunately, she helped me discover the advantage of disregarding petty differences and making the most of what each style brings to the challenges we face each day.
Dana is the Principal of DCP Training & Talent Development. For over 20 years she has helped organizations as varied as Macy’s NW, Safeco Insurance, the Oregon Department of Transportation, and New Seasons Market, improve their performance and achieve their goals.
She works with managers to improve their results and job satisfaction by identifying and leveraging the talent on their teams.