Many years ago, when we lived in Chicago, we took a stranger into our home. Gayla had come to the area to visit her son, who was in prison. (I don’t remember the nature of his crime.) She stayed with us only a few days, but her influence still remains. In gratitude for our hospitality, she offered to give our church ladies an impromptu presentation of her program on the four different personality types as defined by family counselors Dr. Gary Smalley and Dr. John Trent.
The Four Temperaments
They had re-labeled the four temperaments that Hippocrates had identified as choleric, sanguine, phlegmatic, and melancholic with corresponding images that were more fun and more easily understood: the lion, the otter, the golden retriever, and the beaver.
This week I’ve been watching the GreatWorkMBA conference – a five-day conference designed to encourage us to do not just good work, but Great Work – work that is meaningful beyond just increasing the bottom line or receiving a paycheck.
Fascination and Synergism
On the second day, Michael Bungay Stanier interviewed two business influencers who spoke of even more ways in which we interact. Sally Hogshead introduced 49 different combinations of personality that define how we fascinate others – hold their focus, engage them.
In a later session, Les McKeown, author of The Synergist and The Predictable Success, described three different roles within an organization: the Visionary, the Organizer, and the Processor, and how we all fit into one or more of these roles.
These organized approaches to interaction and corroboration reminded me of that seminar long ago with Gayla – and how it changed the way I viewed co-workers, family members, friends – any members of a group that need to function in a healthy way.
Hogshead and McKeown reminded me that we’ve all been given different gifts. If we recognize and use our natural inclinations well and recognize, respect, and use the natural inclinations of others, we function together for the good of all – a concept known as synergism: “the interaction of two or more agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.”
The various personality tests indicate I’m a combination of golden retriever/beaver (Smalley), phlegmatic/melancholy (Hippocrates), and Alarm-Mystique (Hogshead). The result of McKeown’s test surprisingly labeled me as naturally synergistic.
If that’s true – and of course I like to think it is – as a quiet, methodical, introvert who nevertheless enjoys small group interaction, I don’t envy or resent those outgoing types who seem to fill the room just by entering it. I also don’t wish that everyone would be more like me.
Rather, I celebrate our differences. I begin to understand how useful it is when we all recognize our strengths and weaknesses and work together to accomplish the good for all.
I remember Gayla distinctly as part lion, part otter – flamboyant, emotional, talkative, direct, and forceful. She was the exact opposite of my golden retriever/beaver combination. Yet 20 years later, though I barely remember what she looked like, she continues to help me become a better version of myself.
How does your personality affect your success?
If you can identify your own patterns, your own personality and those of your co-workers, family, or members of your group, you’ll understand why you’ll never be like them, and they’ll never be like you.
For instance, if you’re a natural lion – forceful, competitive, seeing people only as a means to an end – you’ll make yourself stop and listen to the loyal, sensitive golden retriever. If you’re the retriever, you’ll rejoice in the energy and vision that the otter brings into the room. If you’re the playful, visionary otter, you’ll respect the work ethic and the organizational abilities of the analytical beaver.
Together, you’ll form a complete package and achieve synergism. Your success together will be greater than anything you could have done separately.