In my job I have the privilege of working with lots of wonderful people. Sometimes it feels as if everyone is working very hard under difficult circumstances. In these conditions, who we really are begins to shine through. I have met four kinds of people: I wonder if you recognise yourself in any of them...
This person is easily spotted because of their constant use of sentences beginning with ‘I feel’. ‘I feel hungry.’ ‘I feel tired.’ ‘I feel upset.’ They make decisions based entirely on their inner state.
They don’t turn up when they should because they needed to sleep/have a deep chat with a friend/get some food etc. They are incredibly hard to work with because they are fundamentally self-absorbed.
Of course, we all have days like this. But part of growing up is learning not to be defined simply by our feelings or personal circumstances. I remember waking up one day feeling ill and tired, but with no one to look after our 17-month-old daughter but me. My feelings were irrelevant. Time to grow up.
This person is the opposite of the child. They are completely aware of what needs to be done, and they are the person who will do it – or die trying. They totally disregard their own needs and rush around working unbelievably long hours.
Strangely, these people are also quite difficult to work with. They often want everyone to know that they are working so hard and saving the day. They end up disempowering others, doing people’s work for them to make sure it is right.
They are hopeless at delegation (after all, when you are the messiah, who can match your standards?). They often adopt ‘command and control’ working patterns with team mates. Lazy colleagues go along with the messiah because they know he will do all the work.
This is getting into the more healthy territory. Rocks balance their inner needs with the demands of the situation. They make choices about what they can contribute, and follow through on their commitments.
Their choices and commitments reflect a strong awareness of their capabilities. They are rocks because you can really build with these people: they can bear weight. They turn up when they say they will, keep their promises and don’t fall apart.
But the problem with rocks is that they have hard edges. Their strengths in making choices and commitments can have a negative side: they do not particularly consider other people.
Rocks tend to be self-contained and self-controlled – which leads me to my fourth type of worker.
This person adds relationships to the choices and commitments that the rocks make. Collaborators are aware not just of their inner state and what needs to be done, but also of the other people on the team. They see how these people are contributing, or could contribute.
Collaborators create joy because they value people. The work seems easier because they believe in you, help you, cheer you on and connect with you. They build a team.
I started this article saying that I had observed these four different kinds of people. Of course, the truth is that the person I was observing was me, and I have been all four of these at different times. I am not proud of that fact and want to get better.
I have been thinking about what drives me towards one type rather than another at any given time. Which one am I most likely to revert to under pressure?
How about you?