Your Personality Type Matters

I returned last week to my alma mater, the University of North Dakota, to speak to a group of bright young business majors in a class on understanding your individual personality profile. A management consultant in organizational development led the class instruction. Jonathan Warrey, Marco vice president of sales and also a UND alum, and I brought our practical application and experiences to this relevant subject.

I remember sitting in a similar classroom at UND 30 years ago. Our evening class presenter was a young, local bank executive named Randy Newman. He came in polished and professional and he made a lasting impression on me with his personal insight on leadership. I remember thinking, “I’d like to have a job like his someday.” Randy went on to become the CEO and Chairman of Alerus Financial, a multibillion-dollar financial services company.

Now I was the guy in the front of the classroom and I had the opportunity to talk about a subject that I believe is core to leadership success. You might have heard me say it before and I have written a blog on it, “You have to understand yourself first to understand others better.” The concept of understanding yourself and playing to your strengths can apply in most any job, which is why it is required coursework for Marco’s selling essentials training.

I know what it’s like to be sitting in a classroom and dreaming about a successful future. I wanted to motivate the students to actively engage in the content so they could leverage their understanding of their own personality traits to help them determine their career path. I shared with them these three pieces of advice:

  • Make sure your career path matches your personality type.
    It’s not just about finding a “job” you think you’d like to do. It’s important that you also find a “career” DISC_Jeffthat you could be good at and matches your personal strengths. I am an extremely high D, focused on dominance, directing and delegating (my DISC Personality Profile - pictured to the right) which is common for CEOs. A profile assessment is an important tool you can use to better understand yourself. It identifies not only your general personality type, but also what motivates you and what stresses you.

    The motivators outlined by the DISC assessment describe me perfectly. I am motivated by initiating change, achieving immediate results, promoting innovation, creating a dynamic environment, keeping things moving, helping people work toward a challenging goal and inspiring others to do their best.

    The stressors – or what drains my energy – also are spot on. They included following strict rules or processes, having to moderate my pace, accepting limitations, performing routine tasks and adjusting my goals.

    The assessment gave me insight into myself when I took it for the first time and when I have retaken it in recent years. It has helped me shape my career path and surround myself with people who play to both my strengths and weaknesses.

    You don’t have to be a D to be an executive or even a leader. I have had every member of my executive team complete the assessment and their dots cover every quadrant. Success is about working in your sweet spot.
  • Pick your first job wisely.
    Your first job is not just a job. It’s beginning to set your career path. Take the time to think about your long-term career goals and where you want to be in 10 or 20 years. Then, consider the industry you want to be in, the type of work you want to do, the business hours and the location that best align with your goals. Most people stay in the industry where they worked their first job for their entire career. So when you’re choosing your first job, you’re probably choosing the industry you could be in your entire career. Narrow your job search to areas that not only interest you, but also your other career objectives. You’ll appreciate it later as you achieve success in your chosen field. 
  • Align your career with the lifestyle you want.
    We all have lifestyle priorities. Understanding what they are at age 20 and what they might look like at age 40 is an important step to finding lasting success. For example, I didn’t want to work nights and weekends and I wanted to make a good income. So I chose my first job according to the lifestyle I wanted and went into business to business direct sales. This ended up being a good choice for me when I was 25 and continues to be the hallmark of my leadership skills today.

Having the opportunity to interact with the students at the University of North Dakota was refreshing and rewarding for me. Sharing the message about understanding yourself and making sure your profession aligns with your personality and desired lifestyle is an important step in determining your career path. Hopefully the experience was inspirational for the students, just like it was for me 30 years ago.