At GHC 2012, I was fortunate enough to be both a blogger and a panelist at this birds of a feather session, so my perspectives are a reflection of the discussions we had, from a panelist’s perspective.
In summary, we talked about different personalities that we may have around the workplace, at home, or while doing our hobbies. For example, I tend to be really animated when talking about my nerdy hobbies or even getting more women in the exciting field of technology, but I tend to be more reserved when I am in a lab or research meeting.
We helped others figure out whether these different personalities happen to them through a a tool that described 4 kinds of personalities through 4 colors. Reds were competitive, while yellows are creative. Blue are calm and cautious while greens are helpers/supporters. I tended to be blue in research work while I turn yellow for my hobbies and such.
One eye-opening fact that I realized during the session is that most of my lab tended to be blues with some greens. My lab is a talented group of smart, analytical people who also help each other out, so it’s not surprising that I ended up turning blue too!
I wasn’t the only one who had their personalities merged with their peers. What about our individuality? Should be be concerned that we are losing ourselves for the group/our career/etc? I don’t think so, because all these personalities have different strengths and weaknesses. The key is to learn how to be a leader/helper/creative/social when you need to be, and you cannot nurture the skills to be creative/social/competitive if you never were in the first place. So if you think of it like a tool set, the more, the better it is for you.
Another point we discussed was that those who are green, who tend to be helpful, friendly, and caring, may end up having many people go up to them for help, and they may end up over-committing and getting in trouble.
Some of the advice is to ask more questions to anyone who wants something from you, and if you keep on asking good questions, the person who wants you to do something may need to get back to you later on that task. This strategy seems to take advantage that the person is normally friendly, so it’s good to be clear on what the task is. Other advice is to put your foot down and learn say no, which may be really hard to do for a green/helpful person to do.
Some of us are all colors at different times, as one of the panelists commented, like a chameleon. We all agreed that this is perfectly acceptable. Conversely, if you picked the same color for both the workplace and the home, that is great too.