Personality, Politics and Productivity: How You and Your Colleagues Think and Work

From yesterday’s New York Times (3.12.13): “What he doesn’t realize is if he tried a different style, he’d get a whole lot more cooperation,” [Republican Senator] Coburn said, adding: “He’s really a neat guy. People don’t know that about him.”   

Irrespective of your large-P Politics, it’s a powerful (though under-appreciated) truth that our basic personality styles significantly influence how we get along with people, and thus, what we get done. Which means that the small-p “politics” of your office have as much to do with how you and the people around you communicate and work with each other as the nature of the work itself.

It behooves you, therefor, to understand  as much as possible your own style preferences and the style preferences of those with whom you interact.  For example, maybe you give more detail to the people around you than they actually need.  In your mind, you’re making sure it will get done right.  In their mind, you’re micromanaging and/or not trusting them.   Of course, it could be the opposite:  You don’t give enough information for someone whose work style favors double-checking procedures.

There are several scientifically validated instruments that quickly and accurately reveal core personality and work style.  The most famous is the Myers Briggs Type Indicator.  Another tool used primarily in the workplace is the DISC.   Here’s summary of the acronym and the behavioral spectrum of the four “factors” it measures:

Having used the DISC with over 160 attorneys and paralegals in a wide variety of settings, I can say that the results never fail to elicit both knowing groans and humble chuckles. “So that’s why my para gets so frustrated when I hold on to documents as long as I do.  She has a high need to bring organization and closure to workflow, but I’m much more comfortable leaving multiple assignments floating out there.”

The 40-page DISC report provides a treasure trove of information on key performance-related indicators such as leveraging your strengths within your organization, where and how you tend to waste time, and how to get along more effectively with people whose styles differ from your own.  The report is completely value- and judgment-neutral.  There are no right or wrong, good or bad personality profiles.  Indeed, everyone has strengths and weaknesses in the context of their work, and developing a deeper understanding of both is the pathway to increased effectiveness and job satisfaction.

If you’re interested in learning more about the DISC and how it might work for you and your team, give me a call.  I’ll share with you an actual redacted DISC of a shareholder from a 5-lawyer firm; you’ll find it fascinating.

About the Author

Bill Jawitz, Law Firm Coach and Consultant

Bill Jawitz has been coaching lawyers to become more profitable and enjoy a higher quality of life since 2002.

He can be reached at or at 203.806.1300.

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