Construction Leadership Insights

How to Discover and Leverage Your Company’s Unique Personality

How to Discover and Leverage Your Company’s Unique Personality

(this is an edited transcript of the Construction Genius podcast episode: HOW TO DISCOVER AND LEVERAGE YOUR COMPANY’S UNIQUE PERSONALITY)

There are 7.8 billion people in the world and while we share much in common, we also know that we are all individually unique. There have been many attempts in history to describe this uniqueness. 

The Fundamental Personality Types

The Greeks theorized that there are four fundamental personality types. They are sanguine, melancholic, phlegmatic, and choleric.

Folks who are sanguine tend to be highly talkative, enthusiastic, active, and social. 

Melancholic people are introverted, analytical, and detail-oriented. They are also deep thinkers and feelers. 

Phlegmatic people are relaxed, peaceful, quiet, and easygoing. They really tend to be sympathetic. They care about other people, and yet they often try and hide their own emotions. 

Finally, choleric people tend to be extroverted. They’re described as independent, decisive, goal-oriented, and ambitious. 

The way the Greeks typically looked at it is that they were usually one or a combination of two of these primary temperaments. 

Individuals that are a combination display two out of the four temperaments at a significantly higher level, but most have aspects of their personality which identify with each of the four. 

The construction industry has more than 680,000 employers in the United States alone. All of those companies have much in common. They all bid work. They all plan work. They build. They run around and try and get paid for the work. 

Just like individuals, though, companies have unique personalities as well. In this article, I will explore how to discover and clarify your company’s unique personality, and how to use that personality as a competitive advantage. 

The best companies really do that very well, after all. 

We’re also going to discuss how personality works together with purpose to build a solid foundation and drive your company’s success. 

This is actually the second part of a four-part series exploring the Triangle One Page Plan process that you can use like a compass to guide you towards your business goals.

In the first part of the four-part series, we covered how to define your business purpose

This part will be about defining your personality. 

The next two parts will cover your plan and your priority

Your Company’s Unique Personality

Going back to our main topic of interest, the best companies understand their unique personality. They use it to build their processes and procedures, determine who they hire and develop and retain, find and service their ideal clients, and set themselves apart from the competition. 

So by way of introduction, I just want to define what I mean by personality and make a distinction between what I think is vital between values and personality. 

But what do we mean by personality? Personality is a characteristic way of thinking and behaving. It is most clearly expressed in our interactions with others. It includes behavioral characteristics that distinguish one company from another. 

Moving on, the difference between values and personality (and the reason I’m making this distinction) is that many of us are familiar with this idea of thinking about the values that drive your company. This thought of personality is something that is a little deeper and a little more unique and specific to you. 

I think of values as table stakes. These are the principles and standards of behavior that you must display to be in business. The table stakes in construction are things like safety, quality, integrity, customer service, teamwork, and innovation. Almost every construction company I know has these values, these principles or standards of behavior in one form or another. 

These are just the basics. 

The problem is with many people, when they’re having this discussion about values or as I would like to call it, this idea of personality, they tend to be way too generic. They don’t really go into enough detail and they don’t talk about it in terms of how our company is unique in the way that we behave. 

Hence, I encourage you to think beyond the terms of those table stakes. Think in terms of your specific company’s personality. 

Another thing you want to keep in mind is that just as your personality is unique, and every other individual’s, so is each a company. It is the reflection of the people in the company. More specifically, it is the reflection of the folks who have either started and own the company, or those who are deeply committed to it. 

The Importance of Having a Personality

A company’s personality has a little more spice to it. It’s more distinctive. It’s something that sets you apart. It’s something that’s memorable to you and meaningful to you. It’s something that gives you that sense of direction. 

Setting your company’s personality will help you to understand how to build a company that’s going to be successful. As I said earlier, it’s something that you should be putting into your own words. 

Don’t worry, I’m going to give you some specific examples of that a little bit later. 

Moving on, it’s vital that your personality and your purpose are aligned. Referencing the previous article in this series, “purpose” answers the question, why do we exist? Personality, on the other hand, answers the question, how do we behave? 

How to Discover Your Company’s Unique Personality

So how are you going to uncover this behavior?

Think about your best employee. Who is your best employee? Who is the first person who pops to mind when I ask that question? 

You can stop reading for a while, just for a moment, and make a list of that person’s characteristics. How does he behave?

You might want to stop the podcast right now, just for a moment, and if you’re not driving, make a list of the characteristics, the way that that person behaves. 

This activity can include multiple employees. Think about the best person in the field, in the office, and your business development team. What makes them the best? What are their specific behaviors that are unique to them? How do they treat your clients? How do they interact with employees or project partners? 

Let me give you a specific example. 

An Example: Splasheo

One of the cornerstones of my business is I shoot a lot of videos and I work with this one company called Splasheo that edits my videos. 

One I’ve noticed about them is that their customer service is absolutely excellent. I was talking to the founder of the company. His name is Gideon. I was asking him what drives that customer service. And basically what it is, is that Gideon is pretty driven and obsessed with taking care of his clients. It’s just part of his personality. 

It’s important to note that not everyone in the business is like that. 

In any case, Gideon’s personality is reflected in the way that they serve their customers. 

What’s more interesting is that there’s a possibility that the folks that you’re thinking about may not even be conscious of what they’re doing. They just do it. 

That’s why this exercise is so important. Because, as you think through what it is that they actually do, you’re on the path to codifying the behaviors in your business and what makes it unique. 

The more specific you can be about the behavior, the more descriptive you can be, the better. 

For instance, if you’re again looking at customer service, how do the best people in your organization act? Maybe it’s in the small things like answering on the first ring or getting back to someone within 24 hours.

On the other hand, you can also perform this activity by looking at someone who is, perhaps, not with your organization anymore. They’re technically sound. They may be even ethically sound. But they’re simply not the right fit for your organization. 

What is it that characterizes them? 

Here’s another specific example.

An Example: A Question on Punctuality

I worked for a gentleman many years ago who is actually a very close friend of mine and a dear friend. I really like him a lot and he’s a great guy and he’s built two extremely successful businesses, but he is never on time and never he has never been on time to any meetings that I’ve ever had with him. 

…But what if being on time is extremely important to you? Regardless of this person’s talent, despite the fact that he’s a person of integrity and someone who you would really like to hang out with, in the end, this person would still not fit in your organization. 

Hence, the first thing that you can do to discover your company’s personality is,

  1. Look at the people who are the best fit for your company, both technically and behaviorally. 
  2. Look at the people who are maybe fit technically but not behaviorally.
  3. And then, compare and contrast the two.  

Think about how the answers can begin to influence the way you craft your personality statements. 

Speak in Your Language

Now, state these things in your own language. Words like integrity, customer service, fairness…what do they even mean? 

It is critical to describe your company’s personality in your own words, and in terms of a certain behavior. It really helps you to get to the root of the personality of your business that drives your success. 

Whatever you do, avoid corporate speak. That’s not what we’re looking for. If you have read the previous article in the series, this idea of personality and purpose, you may remember that it has nothing to do with marketing. It has nothing to do with looking good in other people’s eyes. BUT, It has everything to do with understanding yourself.

Because the more you understand why you do things and how you behave, the more you’ll be able to align that with what you actually do. The more successful and happier you will be, not only as an individual but as a company. 

Gain Competitive Advantage With Personality

Now that we’ve covered how to define your personality, let’s look at how you can use this personality as a competitive advantage. 

Again, we’re not just talking about marketing. We’re talking about understanding yourself so that you can leverage the best of yourself to set yourself apart from the competition. 

What makes business hard? Things like a lack of strategic clarity and direction, employees that don’t fit in, customers that are a pain in the neck, inconsistency in execution—these are but some of the factors that can make your business unnecessarily challenging to run.

Think of the other elements in your business, like the types of projects that you like to build. Do you have a certain personality, a certain type of person in your organization that drives the types of projects you build?

Or perhaps you’re the type of person who loves to negotiate. It’s part of your DNA. You enjoy getting stuck into complicated projects and negotiate the way that they’re going to be built and the amount they’re going to be built for. 

Or maybe you’re someone who’s more comfortable in a hard bed environment. You probably prefer a more public environment versus a private environment. Maybe it is your personality that drives you to want to work in an urban environment and be involved in large projects that are going to be clearly seen? 

Maybe one of your buildings is going up in Bay Bridge going into San Francisco and you get a real kick out of pointing that out to people, saying “I built that.” You can’t necessarily explain why. It’s simply part of your personality. It’s part of the personality of your organization. 

On the other hand, you may be perfectly content in a less dense environment and you don’t want to spend your life in the city. That can also be the personality of the people who are working in your organization. 

Thus, think about how your personality should drive your strategy. Think about it in terms of your internal setup and the people that you hire. 

This is fundamental. If you understand the personality of your company, you will begin to attract the right people and repel the wrong people. To make sure, you can even begin embedding personality questions into your interviewing process. Think about how these people in your organization aren’t just people. They can embody a personality that can behaviorally fit for your company. 

Think about why you fire people as well. What makes them misaligned with your organization? It can be because of incompetency, a bad attitude, or if you really think about it, a personality incompatibility. 

When considering what you should be driving towards as an owner of your company, as a member of the executive team, we can agree that it should be towards having the most amount of people who line up with the personality of your company as possible. You should be weeding out the people who are not a personality fit. 

Your company’s personality can also drive who you do business with. 

I’ll give you an example. 

An Example: The People of California

I live in the capital of California, the world’s fifth-largest economy. There are a ton of state agencies in Sacramento who I could work with if I choose to do so, but I don’t work with them because my personality is kind of independent. 

I just love working with entrepreneurs. I don’t know about you guys, but I haven’t found too many entrepreneurial-type folks, really business-driven type folks who work for the state. I have nothing against those folks. They have a role to play in our society. They’re simply not the types of people that I like to work with. And so I don’t do business with any of the state agencies in my area. 

I hope you get that idea. That understanding of your personality can really set you apart in terms of your strategy such as determining who works for you and who you choose to work with.

So we’ve talked about how to discover and clarify your unique personality, and we’ve also covered how to use your personality as a competitive advantage.

Your Personality as a Solid Foundation

Finally, let’s cover how personality works together with your deep purpose to provide a solid foundation and drive your success. 

Again, the purpose of your business is the deep reason why you exist. When your personality and purpose are aligned, it’s like the old story about the house that’s built on the sand versus the house that’s built on the rock. 

Companies who don’t understand their purpose or their personality or those who do understand them but don’t live according to them, are like folks who have no solid foundation. They’re built on the sand. We can only guess how chaotic they can be when the storms of business come. They can go out of control. They won’t be able to sustain success over a long period of time. 

On the other hand, the people who understand their deeper purpose, and their personality, those are the ones that have that solid foundation. They will be able to withstand the storms that come and even thrive in the midst of them. 

Purpose and personality are the bedrock of a successful company. They determine everything that you do from a planning and execution perspective. You will be able to use your purpose and personality as filters. 

When you’re looking at opportunities… 

When you’re hiring people…

When you’re building the policies and procedures…

You can ask yourself these questions: 

Does this further the purpose of our company? Will it give us the opportunity to fulfill our purpose in alignment with our personality?

Don’t be afraid of going deep into understanding your purpose and personality, and building your business around those two things, because the combination of the two is what makes each company truly unique. 

It will give you an opportunity for differentiation. 

Maybe you’ve tried this before. Perhaps you’ve gotten together with your executives and even brought someone in from the outside to facilitate. You have probably figured out your value statements before and you might even put them on a wall somewhere or on your website and you weren’t able to live according to them. It could even have felt fake at some point. Well, don’t let that discourage you! 

So I’d like to give you some more examples. 

More Real-life Examples

Here’s something from a fire protection subcontractor. Their purpose statement is “building lives by saving lives”. 

Here’s what they came up with in terms of their personality: 

Their first statement is “Take nothing for granted.” 

Their second one is “Delayed gratification.” 

The third one is “Earn everything.” 

Think about that for a moment. Think about how those can impact the way they run their company, who they hire, who they fire, the people that they choose to do work for, and how they do work. 

Think about how it drives their people and their processes and their services. You get a sense of how that clear purpose and personality impacts choice and behavior. 

Here’s another example from a framing subcontractor. They do more than just framing, true, but that’s the core of their business. Their purpose is “We build to provide and endure.” 

Their personality is stated like this: “The courage to break molds and eliminate excuses; the discipline to kick ass; and the wisdom to stay humble together.” 

Reflect on that for a moment. It may appeal to you. It may not. But I can tell you it is a true reflection of the core of their organization and why they have been successful. 

Here’s Vance Lancaster, the V.P. of Lancaster Burns. He is a framing contractor. This is what he says about the triangle planning process where he and his group were able to identify their purpose and their personality. 

He said: 

“You helped us understand what our purpose, personality, plan, and priority is. We probably had an opportunity to do this 10 years ago, but we didn’t take it. 

I can’t imagine how much farther along we’d be if we had. It’s now a tool we use in every personnel review, conversation, quarterly meeting, and interview. It’s a foundation of what this organization is about. And we use it to help everyone understand what type of contractor we are.” 

To Sum Up

We began this article by discussing the definition of personality and making that distinction between values and personality. We’ve talked about how to discover and clarify your unique personality, how to use your personality as a competitive advantage, and finally, how personality works together with purpose to provide a solid foundation for your company. 

Each individual has a unique personality. Think about how you’ve probably taken a personality test in the past (the one I like to use with my clients is called the ProfileXT), and you’ve gained some insight into yourself. You’ve begun to understand yourself more and leveraged the results to help you to be more successful. 

Take the opportunity to do the same for your business as well. Sit down with the core folks in your organization. Define your company’s personality. 

Set aside a meeting. Think about the people who are a tremendous fit in your organization and ask yourself how they behave? Define it in your own words. Consider someone who is technically a good person, perhaps, but not a good fit in terms of their personality and your organization. And compare and contrast those types of people to come up with a list of characteristics and qualities that define the best in your organization. 

Synthesize your insights into clear personality statements like the ones I’ve shared with you earlier, then communicate your personality to people, particularly internally, so that they understand how you want them to show up. 

Use these statements to build your processes as well. Think about them in terms of your strategic plan and align your personality with this tactic to use it to make decisions in your organization. 

I really appreciate that you’ve read this article all the way through. Again, this is just the second part of a four-part series looking at the one-page triangle planning process. 

Please watch out for my next articles in the coming weeks where we’re going to talk about plan and priority. 

About the Author

This is Eric Anderton. 

My goal is to teach you how to build a simple one-page plan that you can use again and again to drive the success of your organization. 

If you have any questions regarding this content that I’m sharing with you, reach out to me and I will respond to you within 24 hours. 

Just go to my website, EricAnderton.com, and go to the Contact Me page and fill in your details. 

Thank you for reading, and feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions. Have a terrific week!

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