The Oxford English Dictionary defines personality as “The combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual's distinctive character”.
We can all describe our family, our friends, and the people we meet in a way that helps others get a picture of them. Sometimes our descriptions are humorous, sometimes flattering, sometimes disparaging, and occasionally
worse (especially if you suffer a tendency for road-rage or similar ).
OED uses “She has a sunny personality that is very engaging” as an example of someone's personality.
And you can imagine the person without ever meeting them, can’t you?
But how many of us ever think about the personality of our own business?
“Don’t be stupid Richard, businesses aren’t people and don’t have personalities!”, did I hear you murmur??
Well, legally, your business is a person! (and yes, I know I’m being a pedant, but that’s part of my personality, or as I prefer to describe it: good attention to detail).
And, whether you choose to believe it or not, a business has a personality.
If you don't already do so, I recommend you start thinking about your business as a person today, and, more specifically, thinking about the person you want it to be, the person you want customers to meet, the person that makes you proud.
It will help you attract the right people and the right customers / clients, help create a more enjoyable working environment for everyone, and ultimately give you industry leading profitability.
Is this just more marketing fluff?
Nope. But I can understand why you might think that.
Especially if you have met brand experts who use buzzphrases like brand image, brand perception, brand tone of voice and other such things.
But branding is not today's topic - I’ll write one on that in the future. (In fact, if there’s ever a topic you’d like me to cover in a newsletter, drop me an email and I’ll try and oblige).
This newsletter is about the personality your client experiences when they interact with someone in your business. The personality that pervades the culture of the organisation.
And, very simply, that personality is defined by the people you have in your business.
If someone with a “a sunny personality that is very engaging” answers your phone, how will your customers perceive your business’s personality?
Now think about the phone being answered by someone who is “dour and has a voice that could cut corn”.
Yes, I know you wouldn’t do that in your business, it just wouldn’t make sense1.
But, for some strange mystical reason, it happens, and happens a lot.
Well, it isn’t that strange or mystical to be honest. In my experience the typical contributory factors are:
- Recruiting people is hard and we can’t be picky (which sometimes ends up as the mirror test2)
- We’ve never thought (or don’t care about) fluffy nonsense like the personality of our business
- We haven’t built it into our recruitment mechanisms and trained everyone on how to do it
- It is part of our recruitment process, but it isn’t a pass/fail decision
- Once they get in, we never deal with the problem.
So how do I do it Ricardo?
Defining your business personality is simple but requires good quality thinking time, and you should involve your top team in the initial conversations.
- Identify your “organisational terrorist”, the person that is (or was) a real disruptive influence. Describe the personality traits you really dislike in them.
- Now identify the person in the business whose personality you’d clone tomorrow if you could. Describe the traits you like in them.
- Compare and contrast their traits to help you refine the personality you're looking for in th business.
More advanced method:
- This only works if you have identified your sweet-spot customers, the customers you won’t work with, your key differentiators, and have a clearly defined measurable value proposition.
- Using the information above, identify how your sweet-spot customers want to be treated, what will make them want to engage with you more, what pi**es them off etc.
- Overlay this with the outputs from the simple method.
- Voilà you have the personality trait you want for your business and the people you need in your business.
My recommendation is that you define only three to five personality traits to use in your recruitment and assessment process. And write them and their desrcriptions in a way that helps people understand what you’re looking for and makes it easy to recognise the traits in others.
My favourite personality trait descriptors come from SouthWest Airlines:
- Warrior Spirit (never give up, strive to be the best)
- Servant’s Heart (kind and caring, treat others with respect)
- Fun-LUVing attitude (don’t take yourself too seriously, upbeat, positive)
That's the easy bit. The real challenge is implementing it. You’ll need to think about how you:
- Engage the people in the business to help you shape and finalise the personality traits.
- Attract, recruit and induct the ‘right’ people
- Change those who don’t fit your personality
- Recognise and reward the ‘right people’
Then you must be diligent about making it happen.
And, as ever, I’m happy to guide you through the exercise – just drop me an email at email@example.com
Three Final Thoughts For You
If your brand promise, brand image, brand tone of voice etc. (to use a few buzzphrases) come across completely differently from the people you have in the business, then you’re going to get “customer cognitive dissonance”.
In other words, customers become subconsciously uncomfortable because what you say you do and what you do are not aligned.
And that discomfort makes it harder to win new sales and you get fewer repeat purchases and fewer referrals.
Secondly, I’m not talking about everyone in the business being the same.
That’s a spectacularly stupid idea.
You should search for the most diverse group of people you can recruit who all share a similar set of core personaliity characteristics / traits.
And the reason it should be as diverse as possible? You get better results. Period.
Don't believe me? McKinsey research published late 2018 showed that:
- Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 21% more likely to outperform their peers on profitability
- Companies in the top quartile for ethnic / cultural diversity were 33% more likely to have industry leading profitability3
- Companies in the bottom quartile were 29% less likely to achieve above industry profitability versus all companies analysed!
And, finally, that Southwest Airlines lot? The ones I mentioned earlier?
They’ve achieved 46 continuous years of profitability in an industry renowned for its loss-making and bankruptcy filings.
And they attribute the foundation of their success to consistently recruiting a diverse bunch of mavericks with the right personality.
PS: I help frustrated business owners get no-nonsense reliable answers to their most pressing issues so they can run their business more profitably with fewer headaches and hassles so they have more time for themselves and their families! Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to find out more or click the big green button below to book a 15 minute chat
- Unless your business is offering some sort of masochistic service like helping people complete ultra-endurance sporting events or encouraging people to take up golf.
- Take a mirror and hold it up to the candidate’s face. If the mirror fogs up, offer them a job. It is a proven way of filling roles, just don’t expect the on-the-job results to be that good.
- Ethnic / cultural means things like age, gender, race, nationality, international experience, LGBTQ+