By Raleigh F. “Sandy” Seay, Jr., Ph.D.
“A Long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away . . .”
I have recently been struck by the number of references to the concept of time in song, literature, science, and drama, going back about as far in time as you want to go.
Most physicists think that time began at the Big Bang, some 15 billion years ago. Before the Big Bang, there was no such thing as time.
Greek mythology says time began with the Greek god Chronos (from which we may get our English word “chronology”). The first two verses of Genesis seem to be talking about the beginning of time, as well.
For most of us, especially in business and the professions, time, like parenting, never ends and we live our lives on a time schedule that determines what we do each day and what time of the day we do it.
Indeed, one of the most popular planners for management is the Day-Timer (I wish they would provide this in a digital format . . . but, alas, that’s a subject for another day . . .). You may have attended a management workshop called “Time Management,” a course that teaches us how to get more things done in less time, thus leaving us more time for getting more things done in less time.
Time and Your Personality Temperament
If you’ve undergone a personality temperament assessment at some point in your career, you know that some working styles are more tuned in to time issues than are others. For example, the Hard Charging Type A thrives and flourishes on a time schedule and feels intense and concentrated pressure to abide by it, right down to the exact minute. If a Type A gets off schedule, watch out . . . the fireworks are starting soon. Hard-charging Type A’s make good managers but are often unaware that they generate nuclear level energy that can be intimidating to others. On the other hand, Hard Charging Type A’s think that nuclear energy is a good thing and that you should generate a little of it, too. According to Florence Littauer,3 the motto of a Hard Charging Type A is, “Let’s do it, let’s do it now, and let’s do it my way.” If you’re dealing with a Hard Charging Type A, he or she has only a certain amount of precious time to give to you, so you must get in, do your business and get out quickly. Time, for a Hard-Charging Type A, is premium currency.
On the other hand, a Sanguine is a people person, for whom the most important part of life is being around other people and talking, telling stories, swapping anecdotes, and generally enjoying the company of others. For the most part, Sanguines seldom think of time. In fact, time is not even on the radar screen and most Sanguines don’t even have a radar screen. On the other hand, Sanguines generate a ton of goodwill and are excellent representatives of the company. They are terrific in sales, customer service, patient care, public relations, and almost any other position that involves being around other people. Sanguines lead with the heart and are very empathetic. Everyone likes a Sanguine. On the other hand, since time is not on the radar, Sanguines are often late for meetings and, in many cases, forget where the meeting is and what time it is to start. But you’ll like them a lot when they finally arrive!
The Phlegmatic personality temperament is aware of time but is scared of it. A Phlegmatic needs plenty of time to get the job done. Phlegmatics are totally dependable but want to avoid conflict at all costs. If you have a job where time is not an issue, and if you give that job to a Phlegmatic with plenty of time to get it done, you will get a good reception. But if you give a task to the Phlegmatic and say you need it by 3:30 this afternoon, you can almost visibly see the stress and tension building. Phlegmatics don’t like time pressures so if you’re dealing with a Phlegmatic, keep time out of the picture to the maximum extent possible.
And then there is the Perfectionistic personality temperament that loves detail and systems and Excel spreadsheets. As Florence Littauer says, the motto of the Perfectionistic is, “It has to be right. And there is only one way for it to be right.
And if it’s not that way, it’s not right.” You can count on the Perfectionistic pattern to get the job done correctly, with detail and precision, but he or she needs plenty of time to complete it because the most important thing is getting it right, even if it takes a long time. If a Perfectionistic comes into your office to talk about something, be prepared to bring your lunch because the meeting is going to take a long time, probably with TMD (Too Much Detail). Or WTMD (Way Too Much Detail).
Personality temperaments are matters of degree and are tendencies, not absolutes. You are born with your individual personality temperament and it does not change your entire life. The four personality temperament characteristics (Type A, Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Perfectionistic) coming together in different degrees reveal your individual personality temperament. Sometimes, a person will have a combination of several characteristics. For example, a person with a strong dose of Type A combined with the Perfectionistic trait will produce a mega-strong personality temperament. The motto might be something like, “Let’s get it done right now but by golly it better be right.” Whoosh!
How to Determine Your Personality Temperament
It’s good to have some sense of your own personality temperament as well as that of others, so you can deal with, manage, and approach others in the most effective way. The assessment tool we use at Seay Management is the DISC profile which achieves a good balance of providing enough information but not too much information. If you’d like the DISC profile for one or more of your management team, or as a team-building exercise, contact us. We’ll get you all the information you need, as Sandy says, “On time and under budget.”
Please contact your Seay Management Consultant if you have any question about personality temperament and the DISC profile, or any other Human Resources Management issue, and visit our web site at www.seay.us for management advice and guidance on other employee issues. We appreciate having you as a valued client of our firm and look forward to talking soon. I’d say more, but I’m out of time.