This past Christmas I blew the budget and bought my family a gift that might end up being one of the best investments for the farm as well.
I’m not sure what your first guess was, but no, it wasn’t more tile. Not soil testing either. Not more grain storage. Although these are all great Christmas presents.
I got us personality tests ... and jump-started a conversation.
Indeed. All the family and employees logged on and did a 15-minute DiSC™ test that scored us in one of four quadrants. The y-axis places people according to their style: from fast to slow, from outgoing and direct to reserved and detail-oriented. The x-axis ranks people on their focus, whether they are people-focused or task-focused, more social or more practical. So then imagine a pie divided into four: (D)ominant are those who are fast and task-focused; (i)nfluencers are outgoing and people-focused; (S)teady are detail-oriented and people-focused; while (C)onscien-tious are reserved and task-focused. To review, D’s get things done, I’s are cheerleaders, S’s don’t rock the boat and C’s do it right ... the first time.
For those that know me, it probably isn’t a surprise that I’m an ‘i’ - outgoing and people-focused. I did the DiSC™ test a few years ago and I haven’t changed. While our behaviours and values will change over time, our personalities are locked in by the end of high school.
I suspected that most of my family was the same personality as myself because I generally like them and ... I think I have the best personality. (Probably all of us think our own perspective on the world is the best, right?).
But I was surprised by the results. Both my parents are Dominant (which explains most of my childhood) and us four kids are evenly spaced, one in each quadrant (which explains the rest of my life… kidding! Goodness, I’m going to get in trouble when they read this.)
Like all families that work together, there is some degree of tension at Luymes Farms. And it shows up in the petty things, so you don’t want to be a dolt and bring them up, right? You’re annoyed that someone didn’t put a tool back in its place or that someone is taking too long to make a decision about a coffee maker for the lunchroom. But petty things run deep and can pile up to a point that they can’t be shrugged off.
So, we talked. People warned me I would be opening a can of worms. Yes, we opened something, but not that. We talked about our personality styles and how they played out in the petty things. We talked for a whole afternoon with a consultant in the living room, in-laws and all. We laughed. We cried. (Well, I cried.) We were brave and I am so proud of us.
If you did the math, you might have guessed where some of the tension at Luymes Farms comes from. One of my brothers is (C)onscientious, working with another brother and two parents that are all (D)ominant.
Over the course of the afternoon, I came to see how his C-ness was critical to the success of the farm, but that he didn’t feel his C-ness was valued or understood because everyone else just wanted to get ’er done. While the Ds were rushing around, he’d feel the bulk of the responsibility to get it right. He’d examine every angle but feel demonized for playing the devil’s advocate.
Quick side note: I just learned that the devil’s advocate (advocatus diaboli in Latin) is a real thing. It was an appointed and paid position in the Catholic Church until 1983, to present evidence against candidates for sainthood. Since the position changed, the rate of new saints increased from about one per year to about 18 per year. (And I thought people were just becoming holier over time!)
What’s the point? That the counter-position is an extremely valuable one, and no matter whether it is coming from a D, an i, an S or a C. The counter-position is not a person to win against or win over, but one to really consider. If teams are all one position or personality style, they might have less tension but they’ll make terrible decisions.
What it came down to at the end of the day was communication based on understanding the other’s style. To work well with a C or an S, you might need to schedule a meeting and then another meeting, with time in between for them to think about the issues at hand. An S will like small-talk but a C probably won’t. To work with a D or an ‘i’, you might need to get clear on the information that needs to be communicated and make it very quick. Say it and then stop talking so that a D can get back to work, but an I could keep talking for hours about how to change the world.
My family might shoot me for writing this, but if this helps another farm family work better together, then it will not have been in vain.
This was a Christmas gift like no other. I have a new-found appreciation for my own strengths and gratitude for the (opposite) strengths of the rest of my family. Thank goodness for our differences; there’s no one else I’d rather have on the team. ◊