How Important Is "Personality" To Your Business?

“You are what you eat” or “you get like the people you associate with” or “birds of a feather flock together” and I am sure you can think of many other, these are all Clichés for a reason. We have heard them all before and they have lost their freshness. I am sure you can guess I am going to express a view that even in a cliché there is a seed of truth. Science tells us we are all shaped through nature and nurture. For me, therein lay the seeds of truth to the clichés. I was in a discussion yesterday on the topic, as it relates to the “personality of a business.” I believe personalities are “imprinted” in the womb and from birth on there are an infinite number of possible environmental “tweaks” which occur; social, economic, sibling placement, and on and on. In my discussion we explored the “personality of a business” drawing the parallel.

At its creation a business is “imprinted” upon by the owner(s). It is how I explain the creation of such diversity as a Ben & Jerry’s, an Enron, or a Habitat for Humanities, etc. Although there are corporations formed with the intent to do harm to individuals and our society as a whole. The vast majority are created with positive goals in mind. From the corner convenient store all the way up the food chain they add to the quality of our lives.

Can a Wal-Mart or a Microsoft “develop” anti-social behaviors, which where not part of the vision at their creation, through the realities of its operation? Sure they can. But too, can a Microsoft or Wal-Mart display anti-social behaviors which it “developed” from its owners’ imprint? Again I would say yes. And can that process be reversed should the owners change during their lives? I’d have to give this one a maybe.

All these questions and thoughts are universal. Law firms are not immune to the forces of the market place and the “imprint” which the market place causes, in addition and beyond the “imprint” by the founders. Such an important “cause and effect” often goes unexamined until things do not go as planned.

I am not a fan of “personality tests” in the employment process. I think they can come dangerously close, especially if reviewed by a psychologist, to a medical exam which is prohibited by the American with Disabilities Act. I realize opinions may vary on this and when navigated correctly they don’t run a foul of the ADA, but that is where I come down on it. I am a fan of “personality tests” for self-examination. From time to time it is good to focus on how “personality” is affecting your business.

(There are many personality tests on the internet. Look for one of two types, “the big 5 personality test” as developed by UC Berkley and Meyers-Briggs developed “JUNG test.”)

Aren’t personality tests more generalization? Absolutely they are. That is why I am not a fan for employment but am a fan for self-evaluation. You take the test and you review the generalizations they yield. Discuss the results with people you trust, your advisory board. Have them take the personality test as well. Let the conversation evolve in terms of the positive and negative affect the personalities can have on the business goals. Some traits, when focused can be strong assets yet when left unrecognized or unfocused can really harm the goals and hard work of the business.