Photo by Joshua Hoffman
There I was, sitting in the conference room at one of my former jobs. It was what I call a “B+ job”—a good but not great job; a perfectly nice, challenging, job that fell far short of being meaningful, exciting, of feeling like my right work.
The company was holding a professional development day, during which all employees took a personality test. The idea, of course, was that through the test results, we’d better understand our strengths and weaknesses and those of our colleagues, and that we’d be able to work together more effectively. The usual.
The test was called “True Colors” and categorized people into four personality styles, each named with a color. I was a blue. Let me restate that: I was an off-the-charts blue – scoring almost the maximum number of “blueness” points.
The blue personality type resonated with me so much that my energy level went through the roof just from listening to the facilitator read the description of the blue type, which seemed to include all of favorite things: authenticity, aesthetics, calm, self-expression, harmony, creativity—I could go on.
A few minutes later, after all the descriptions had been read, my colleague Todd grinned at me and said, “I know what you are – you are a gold!”
Gold? I had scored lowest on gold. Every word used to describe the gold sensibility inspired involuntary eye-rolling in me–words like “responsibility,” “structure,” “maintenance,” “stability” “efficiency.” This was the stuff in life that had annoyed and fatigued me for thirty years.
Granted, I never had felt a tremendous kinship with Todd, or felt particularly “seen” by the guy, but we had worked closely together. How could he think I was a gold?
But then, dear reader, I must tell you: Todd wasn’t the only one to guess my type wrong that day.
How could the people I work with closely and interact with daily, have such a misguided sense of my authentic personality, of my actual strengths and weaknesses?
Because my job wasn’t the right fit for my personality, and because in it, I wasn’t being me — certainly not loudly, boldly, clearly.
The role I was doing on my project with Todd was a gold role. It was all about details and structure and creating an orderly process. I was dutifully doing that role, looking like a gold, and resenting it every step of the way.
Second, the organization I was in was primarily a gold organization. Its culture was akin to a gold personality. Fascinatingly, most of the long-time employees were also gold types; they found a good fit.
But the third reason my colleague could have mistaken me for a gold is perhaps the most important: Even though I was performing highly in my job, the truth was, I was hiding. I wasn’t bringing forth my real strengths as much as I could. I wasn’t leading with them.
Fast forward a few years, and my life looks very different. I’m all about blue in my work and my life, and let me tell you, it’s much, much better over here on the others side.
The moral of the story? The questions for all of us are these:
- What strengths and qualities are really needed in your job, and do those match up with your core gifts and your personality style?
- If your role and your strengths aren’t well-aligned, what’s the impact of that on your happiness and work? If they are well-aligned, what’s the impact of that?
- No matter what your current situation, what creative ways can you come up with to use your strengths and gifts more fully, starting right away? Small and subtle changes can make a huge difference. You don’t have to change your job – you can change how you do your job, so that it’s better aligned with your personality and natural strengths.
- What’s the “personality” of your organization, and does it fit well with your own personality?
To be sure, sometimes it’s fun—and lucrative—to be the grounded one in an organization of crazy dreamers, or the visionary in a team of pragmatists – if what you bring is recognized and utilized. If not, that experience can be depleting and erode your sense of self.
This matters–a lot. Recent research has shown that both job satisfaction and job performance are correlated with job-personality fit; you’ll increase both your excellence at work and your enjoyment of your work if you take seriously the questions above.
Who are you, really? Who are you when are you at your best? What are the strengths that make you stand out? Are those the ones most needed in your job and most valued within your company?