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The DNA of Entrepreneurial Success

May 2, 2006
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/159456

Editor's note: In this excerpt of The Entrepreneur Next Door, author Bill Wagner introduces you to the benefits of understanding and working with different personality types. To learn more about the seven key entrepreneurial personality types that Wagner recognizes, read "What's Your Type? and check out his book on Entrepreneur Press.

Everyone is good at something. Rarely is anyone good at everything. And like it or not, very few people achieve success in ventures that aren't good fits with their innate personalities. So if you want to start a company, get a job, or invest in an opportunity, doesn't it make sense to learn more about who you are and what makes you tick? If you're going to be hiring and managing people, wouldn't it be a good idea to know who they really are?

The Benefits of Understanding Personality
Understanding your personality and the personalities on your team gives you an incredible edge. If you're a believer in the golden rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," it's time to reconsider. Although the adage sounds good, it will please only the people who are just like you. Instead, consider doing unto others as they would have you do unto them. In other words, treat others as they want to be treated. Warning: Don't assume you know how someone wants to be treated.

Secret: Knowing someone's personality type gives you accurate information on what type of treatment will trigger the response you want.

Even without knowing someone's personality profile, you can make a fairly educated guess at his personality type by paying close attention to what he says, what he does, and how he does it. For example, is he a risk-taker or a risk-avoider? Does he seem to enjoy working with people or systems? Does he seem to multitask, or does he prefer to finish a project before starting another?

Imagine that you walk into a conference room for a committee meeting with a handful of people you've never met. All of you have volunteered to be part of the committee, so you can assume that you either have some level of sociability or a need to achieve or control. Otherwise, the typical tendency would be to avoid (or at least not volunteer for) group or team situations.

The first objective is to select a committee chairman. Before the introductions have even begun, Sally says, "Let's get down to business. We don't have much time, and I have a lot of experience in this area, so I'd like to get things started and make myself available to serve as the interim committee chair."

George interjects, "Maybe it would make the most sense to review the objectives for our committee and then take a vote."

Karen agrees with George: "We probably all have experience in this area, so to keep the process fair, I think we should get to know each other a little and then consider our options. But I'm open to whatever the rest of you are thinking."

Tom says, "Voting sounds good to me." With a soft chuckle he adds, "Just don't put my name in the hat. But if you need me, I'd be willing to help out." Everyone but Sally laughs.

Karen turns to Stuart, who has been quiet up to this point, and asks, "What do you think?"

Stuart has the look of a deer in headlights. He swallows and says, "I'm here for your computer support. It doesn't matter to me who's in charge, so long as it's not me."

Of the profiles you read in the previous section, which one do you think fits each committee member? Take a moment to consider the possibilities before you read further. Sally exhibits high dominance by suggesting that she be in charge. She shows she's more analytical (less sociable) by expressing more interest in the objectives than in meeting the rest of the people on the committee. She doesn't laugh when Tom introduces a little humor to the mix. Sally is probably a Trailblazer. (This doesn't mean Trailblazers don't have a sense of humor, but "fun" tends to take a back seat to results when they're on a mission.)

George is willing to disagree with Sally's suggestion and put forth his own idea and suggest a vote. The willingness to challenge Sally shows that he also has high dominance, but his desire for group consensus indicates that he has a higher level of sociability than Sally. George is most likely a Go-Getter but possibly a Manager.

Karen attempts to increase the comfort level in the meeting, showing a higher degree of cooperation and acceptance. She supports George's idea to vote but also says she'll go along with whatever the others want. She doesn't want to be part of a conflict, which is on par with her cooperative and accepting nature. She suggests that the members get to know one another a little, which indicates that she's sociable, but she's willing to express her own ideas. She also asks Stuart to share his thoughts, again showing her tendency to be cooperative or a consensus-builder. Karen is probably a Diplomat.

Tom makes it clear that he doesn't want to be the one in charge but suggests that he's willing to assist. This indicates that he has above-average dominance, though not nearly as above-average as Sally and George. He has an easy way about him and makes a joke, indicating high sociability. Tom seems to be a Motivator or possibly a Diplomat. Stuart, who doesn't say a word until he's specifically asked to comment, shows a more accepting and analytical side. His statement that he doesn't want to be in charge indicates his accepting nature, and his assertion of his specific role as "computer support" indicates that he wants to stay in that role. Stuart is most likely a Specialist/Authority.

Short-Term Personality Changes

With all that said, keep in mind that people can exhibit behaviors that are significantly different from their natural personalities, at least for short periods of time. Introverts can behave like extroverts, especially when they're with a group of introverts that they trust and feel comfortable with. When someone they don't know walks into their environment, they may return to their more introverted roots. We all have the ability to stretch or hold back our natural styles for a relatively short period of time. The challenge is changing our personality for an extended period.

Just think back to your last job interview, and compare your behavior with the way you acted the last time you went out with one of your good friends. Notice any differences? Anyone who has ever interviewed for a job knows that his "interview personality" isn't necessarily his real personality. Interviewing and dating are basically "sales calls;" in those scenarios--if we're interested in the job or our date--we're selling ourselves. Our objective is for the person conducting the interview to offer us the job or for the person sitting across from us at a candlelit restaurant to be interested in future engagements.

For the most part, personalities, Tier I (developed largely during the early formative years of people's lives), change little over the course of their lives. Their behaviors, Tier II, however, are the manifestations of their personalities and are the aspects of their personalities that are changeable. People can change their behavior to get what they want in a number of environments. I like to use the typical dating personality or vacation personality to illustrate your ability to behave outside your natural personality because almost everyone can relate to it. Regardless of your personality, the dating personality you exhibit, particularly on the first few dates, is probably quite different from what your parents and best friends see.

Imagine that you're on a date; perhaps it's the beginning of a relationship. Do you think that you'll be more aggressive or more accepting? The dating personality is usually accepting. "You're 35, and you live with your mother. That's great. What a wonderful way to show your love and support for her!" When you're on a date, do you think you'll be more calm and patient or be more impatient? The survey says more patient. Imagine it's time to pick up your date. You expect your date to be ready by 6:30. You have plans on seeing a movie at 7, but your date isn't ready. Do you blow a gasket or do you say, "That's OK. Why don't we just have dinner first and then play the rest of the evening by ear?" Right! You're more patient. For those of you who are now married, are you still as patient? I doubt it.

When dating, do you find that you're more sociable and outgoing or more shy, introspective in your thoughts? Most of us are more sociable. For those of us who think selling is just like lying, even we can increase our sociability in the dating process. Do you feel more relaxed or driving when dating, and are you more compliant, wanting to do everything right, or more casual and independent? When dating, we have a tendency to be more relaxed and independent in that we're more flexible and uninhibited. This is a great personality to have in a dating environment.

The dating personality is very resilient, able to sustain itself for sometimes the entire dating process. The challenge with the dating personality is that you're able to be this person for a couple of years but then one morning, you wake up, look at your significant other and say, "I can't believe how much you've changed since we got married." With shock, they look at us and say, "I'm not the one who has changed. You're the one who has changed." The truth is, everyone changes.

While dating, interviewing, or in a selling or speaking role, you can project a personality that's completely different from your everyday nature. The bigger the difference between the way you're acting and your natural style, however, the harder and more stressful it will be to keep up the act. (Those of you who are attempting this know exactly what I mean!) Eventually, for most people, the mask falls off. If you meet someone who appears to be calm, cool, and collected, all you have to do is put him in a stressful situation to unveil the person behind the mask. The best novelists learn to do this with the characters in their stories to give readers the inside scoop on the characters' true nature, showing their strengths and revealing their weaknesses.

Find the Long-Term Personality
According to the Talmud, an important book in Judaism, before a woman shall marry a man, she should see him under three conditions. True personality traits tend to come out when someone is drunk, sick, or angry. I jokingly tell executives who are hiring, "If you really want to know what someone's like, take them out for bad sushi, offer them a couple of martinis, and then piss them off and see what happens" Of course, it would be easier and less painful to have them take a personality assessment.

Since founding and running a successful company is a long-term process, it's best for an entrepreneur to carefully choose a venture that's well suited for his natural personality. The bottom line is that each of the seven personalities is much more compatible with some types of businesses than with others. Rather than swimming upstream with the currents running against your potential success, why not focus on the types of situations and businesses in which you can thrive?

The value of understanding your own personality is that you can leverage your strengths, improve your weaknesses and limitations, and discover the type of organization that you're best served in creating. You have two choices; you can either choose a business that is well designed for you or be prepared and know that you will need to hire and surround yourself with the right people. Both work.

Like this article? Then check out The Entrepreneur Next Door on Entrepreneur Press.