I understood…I knew the feeling all too well, both from personal experience, as well as from the coaching I’ve done over the years.
A long-term professional contact, and recent informal coaching client, Roger was feeling frustrated with his current role at a large architectural firm. He been there for nearly 5 years, but the handwriting of been on the wall for the past three years. It just wasn’t a good fit. Yet, he simply didn’t know why the fit wasn’t there. It was, after all, what he’d always viewed as his dream job. A good salary. His own corner office. Advancement opportunities. It all seemed to be there. So, he took the job.
The fact is, we don’t always know intuitively if we will find a good fit with a particular organization. Too often, what looks good on paper doesn’t pan out the way we have expected. Roger had discovered this first-hand.
I suggested that Roger and I explore the bases of this dissatisfaction by first undergoing some self-assessment. I had used several valid and reliable personality instruments with coaching clients, and I knew them to be an excellent indicator of personality traits and tendencies. The insights gained, particularly relating to career development and career counseling, are often remarkable. So, desperate to find some answers for himself, Roger agreed to give it a go. And so, a week later, we met at a nearby coffee shop to discuss his results.
Most clients are surprised to discover that my goal is not to “pronounce” who they are, but rather to use the tool as a self-discovery discussion starter. After all, even the best assessment is but a piece of the puzzle, one data source into the tendencies, preferences, and situational characteristics of an individual.
Looking through his results, it struck me that for an employee of a firm long known for group projects and collaboration, Roger’s comfort level reflected a much more inwardly focused, highly self-reliant individual with a tendency to prefer keeping his personal life and his own perspectives private. There appeared to be a reticence to open up toward others, which was balanced by a strong personal warmth. In other words, his preference for and ability to work through projects independently, to self-actualize based on his own internal motivations, and a highly detailed personality were possibly putting him at odds with the team-focused culture of the architectural firm.
Yet, I sat quietly as he paged through the report, the occasional slight nod and canted smile the only visual cues he gave off.
“It’s spot-on,” he chuckled, looking up at me as he reached the last page.
In reality, there were some peculiarities in the report that he questioned, and we spent roughly 45 minutes talking through instances in which he saw these tendencies and in which he wasn’t so sure.
Turns out, my initial conclusions had been fairly accurate. Roger admitted wishing he could simply be given projects to work on alone, with the flexibility to work when and where he wanted, and simply be held accountable for his own work, instead of the entire team’s. But it wasn’t that he objected to group work. Rather, the firm’s insistence that entire projects be co-designed and developed irked his sense of independence.
In the end, we concluded that perhaps a role at a smaller, more flexible architectural firm would better suit his preferences. In the meantime, however, there were actions he could take within the framework of his current role with the firm. He would approach his directing manager with suggestions to allow him to work independently on aspects of the architectural design projects, reserving the group interactions to providing feedback on his work. It was worth a shot.
Time will tell how successful this particular coaching assessment was for Roger. But it’s an example of how a broader understanding of personality traits, tendencies, and foundational preferences may make career development and planning more effective. Such has been the case in my own career, and that knowledge helps motivate me to help others reach similar realizations about themselves.