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Jamie managed the project office for the new payroll system implementation project and was responsible for making sure that each task was finished on time. Many of the tasks depended on other tasks and there was a team of 10 people working together to get the system implemented. He set expectations and reminded people of their task deadlines. He talked with Gina last week about her part of the data clean-up effort and her due date.

Today, he checked in with Robin and she said that she could not test her conversion program because Gina had not finished the data clean-up. Robin had completed her tasks early and would have to start working on a future task, then come back to this after Gina finished. Robin was not happy and Jamie was even more unhappy. He went to talk with Gina. “Gina, why weren’t you able to finish the data clean-up effort? Robin is waiting to test her program with that data.” Gina replied, “Well, I got caught up in the communication effort and I thought that I could move things around a bit because the communication effort is really important. I was also working on the data clean up task last night, but at 11:00 when I started it, I realized that I left my flash drive with the data at the office. Sorry.”

When Procrastination Rules the Day

The Narrative Big Five Trait of Self-Discipline is one of four sub-traits of the Conscientiousness category – Conscientiousness is how disciplined, driven, and structured someone is to achieve specific goals.

When we look at personality differences, and particularly in how we define those in the Narrative Big Five, Robin is someone we would see landing on the far right of the scale where Gina probably lands towards the left. At least this example illustrates that.

The Robin’s of the world get straight to work on tasks assigned to them; they generally meet their deadlines and sometimes have time to spare. A deadline is a deadline to them, regardless of importance or urgency. Yet, sometimes they may lack flexibility when circumstances call for a change in direction.

The Gina’s of the world, who land on the left end of the personality spectrum on this trait, may miss deadlines or they may meet the deadline with no time to spare. Many times, they are up late the night before a deadline finalizing the task and potentially even work on the task start to finish the day before it is due. They also tend to re-prioritize and extend deadlines because generally there are some deadlines that are softer than others.

Individuals that fall in the middle of the spectrum procrastinate some and may extend some deadlines. The degree that they procrastinate is relative to each end of the spectrum. They tend to procrastinate more than the right-side scorers and less than the left-side scorers.

Some jobs require people who score on the right side of this spectrum (generally those in the corporate world) and some jobs require those who score on the left (more creative and consultantive types). Teams may need scorers in all areas of the spectrum, with people on the right getting things done on time and people on the left being more flexible. Sometimes, when we have too many people scoring on the right and moving rigidly toward a goal, they forget to question the goal along the way. The scorers on the left sometimes ask good questions to ensure the path is the right one or a good one. The disciplined team members may get frustrated with the more inconsistent members. The inconsistent members may think the disciplined members are too rigid. Each brings different perspectives to the situation and therefore, everyone needs to appreciate what the other brings.

How do we, in circumstances of opposites, find a solution to help these different personalities better communicate and leverage each other’s strengths to drive a positive outcome?

The Message for Everyone

Awareness is the first step in changing any situation or just learning to adapt. Understanding the different personality traits and their sub-traits helps us to better understand ourselves and others and helps us to strategize and leverage the strengths of each individual within the collective whole.

Awareness can help reduce the tension, allows everyone to take a deep breath, and provides the pause before moving toward action and resolution.

Appreciation is the next step in resolving tension and conflict. If Robin, and the team collectively, can understand and appreciate Gina for her perspective, they can learn to request and leverage her input when they’re rushing to solution. Gina must also practice appreciation and recognize that Robin, and others, depend on her meeting her deadlines. She needs to communicate before she misses the deadline and see if there is room to accommodate more time.

While it’s easy to relate to people that are “like us”, to be successful, teams generally need to be comprised of individuals that fall all along the spectrum so that they’re able to leverage their respective strengths to drive progress and success.

Learn where you fall on the Self-Discipline spectrum…