For those of us who firmly believe in the positive value of understanding behavior styles, it’s frustrating to see the model and concepts being misused. One common way this takes place is through stereotyping. Some examples could sound like:

“Controllers don’t listen, so I’m not going to try and have a conversation with her.”

“If you really want to get something done, don’t have Persuaders work on it together. They will waste a lot of time.”

“He can’t be an effective leader. He’s a Stabilizer so he avoids conflict.”

“Analyzers shouldn’t be assigned to this project. There’s a tight turnaround and they will just slow everyone down.”

Instead of falling into the trap of stereotyping, we should aim at appreciating the diversity of individuals and recognize all the strengths they have.

The second common mistake is using behavior styles as an excuse. This might sound like:

“Well, of course I’m unorganized! Did you forget I’m a Persuader?”

“If you want it done fast, give it to me, but don’t expect me to pay attention to details. Controllers don’t have time for that.”

“I’d like to attend the customer reception, but I’m an Analyzer and not good with people.”

“I’m a Stabilizer, so someone else should bring this up. People might not like it.”

This kind of thinking is not only inaccurate but also limiting. To be as effective as possible in work and life, it is necessary to use all the styles. Trainers and facilitators play a critical role in being clear about this and how important it is to avoid stereotyping someone as a behavior style or using it as an excuse. Regardless of the words or colors you use to identify styles, misuses like these create boxes that restrict self and others.

One leader who failed to modify their behavior situationally once told me, “This is who I am; they’ll have to accept it.” What is unsaid but clear in this type of thinking is that everyone else must flex to meet this individual’s needs. However, self-awareness should lead to self-regulation. Ideally, all team members will embrace the wonderful diversity of behavior styles and are accountable to avoid stereotypes and excuses. 

Dr. Suzi Kalsow, Chief Potential Officer of Suzi Kalsow Leadership Development and Training, was most recently the Vice-President of Learning and Development at Bank Midwest.

Read more about Suzi here.

3 Responses

  1. Great reminder and glad I stumbled across it on LinkedIn. I’ve seen this happen at times in my past 25 year career, including my own mis-application of behavioral styles. Sometimes I think it’s a lack of business or professional maturity that will come around with experience. Other times, I think it’s deliberate. Human being aren’t sales data to be grouped and reporting on the same way. ISTJ or ENTP isn’t the same as sales data from the Northeast or West. Yet, I see that concept confused, especially at times of realignment and recalibration (who stays, who gets moved, who get’s terminated, RIFd, fired) or times of new project and program launches. That makes me wonder if some managers/leaders can or will confuse effectiveness and performance observation based on their own behavioral styles when calibrating employee performance.

    I’d be interested to read (cross posted on LinkedIn so it’s easier to find) another post on the “5 ways people excel at using behavioral styles” or something like “Using behavioral styles in tumultuous times.” The other post that would be interesting, at least to me, is one about how behavioral styles can change and evolve over time. Thanks!

    1. Thank you, Mick. I agree – I think misapplication of the model can come from a lack of personal growth/awareness, trauma, ignorance, intentional manipulation, or a combination. In the iceberg metaphor we use to explain behavior styles, there is a great deal about humans that is “under the waterline” – unseen aspects of a person that impacts how they behave. Styles is a helpful way to understand common behaviors, but there are significant variables, such as culture, age, gender, role, life experience, self-perception, etc. Deep waters.

      In response to one thing you mentioned, I believe many people do allow their behavior style bias to impact their decision making, including performance evaluation and hiring. One of the advantages of learning about styles is that it can help you avoid or at least reduce that bias.

      Those are all great suggestions for future blogs. Thank you!