In 1980, I packed in research science and elected for life as a development worker. The biggest stumbling block to this new life was my worldview. I was an extremely introverted young man and my new career depended on my ability to not only relate to people but take initiative. Also, my general views about how things worked were hardly realistic. I had a lot to learn.
Community development is tough. Over the years I saw many new workers crash and burn. I have no idea how I survived. Certainly, it took me well over fifteen years to understand what I was doing. For one thing I had to stop blaming myself for failure. It was sometimes my fault when something went wrong but well … most things don’t work.
Most important I had to learn to trust other people and offer them space to make their own mistakes. Funding regimes make terrible demands on people who are not being paid to manage projects and paid staff. I slowly understood it is our worldviews that erect barriers to success.
It is worth starting with a word about personality. We act out of the ways in which we perceive the world. This is why people with similar views may respond in very different ways. Knowing your own personality type helps you understand personal biases. Once you know your type, read descriptions and watch out for those biases in the way you act.
I favour The Enneagram, which is a system of 9 basic types that interact in various clearly defined ways. You identify your type by observing your behaviour and comparing it with descriptions. This is a slower but ultimately more reliable than using questionnaires. You can find help from experienced practitioners and if you get the opportunity to meet with others of your type, you can check out whether you do comfortably fit in the same mould.
The point is you cannot change your type. All have positive and negative characteristics. They can all be healthy or unhealthy. You become healthier by observation of your own behaviour and focusing on well-defined positive changes.
One reason most things don’t work is something devised by someone of one type may not function in the same way with someone of a different type. You can adapt but if you are unaware of your own biases, it is unlikely you see the weaknesses in your own approach.
Technical and Adaptive Solutions
Personality has a massive impact on worldview. All nine personality types share all possible worldviews. The reasons they hold the views vary. For example, an Eight might support Remain in Europe because they believe the UK can best achieve its aims by throwing its weight around in Europe, whilst a Five might devise a detailed reasoned argument for the same cause. And of course others of the same types might hold the opposite view.
From a business perspective, all types will be drawn to congenial technical solutions. Faced with a problem, people seek a solution and they most likely choose something where they feel comfortable. So, the Eight may feel happy cold calling prospects whilst the Five is unlikely to feel comfortable doing so.
However, nine different takes on cold calling prospects does not tell us whether cold calling is a good business method. Granted those who feel most at ease with the method are likely to use it more effectively. But what if it is the best method? Does that mean everyone must use it, whatever their predisposition?
Any proven method is worth consideration. Personality is one factor to consider. However, there are many ways to solve the same problem. Choosing the right technical solution is an important skill, resisting biase from your personality and worldview.
Seek an adaptive solution to the problem. This allows you to construct a tailored response, something new that works for you in this context.
Coaching Helps You See Things Differently
This is why working with a coach help. Especially so if the coach does not share your personality type. The coach can challenge you to think outside of your habitual worldview. They suggest other ways of looking at the problem and point out where you act out of your prejudices.
The aim in the coaching relationship is to engage in a dialogue. There is no reason the coach is likely to be less biased than you are – they see from their perspective. However, you as client can challenge the coach too. You can say why you don’t think their suggestion will work. Together you seek a solution that works.
But none of this can work until you have clarity about why you are in business in the first place.