Greek Philosopher Socrates is credited with coming up with the aphorism “Know thyself” a very long time ago, predating by several millennia Dr. Phil, Judge Judy and other “great” minds of our generation.
Socrates’ prescient admonition popped into my mind recently as I rediscovered and reviewed a dozen pages of barely legible notes from a peer group meeting of nine landscape company owners. The owners are members of the industry peer group directed by business consultant and Turf magazine editorial adviser Rick Cuddihe. They meet about twice a year to discuss issues related to their businesses – and to have some fun, too.
At this past summer’s get-together in a north-Chicago suburb, they spent a considerable amount of time talking about employees. They focused on key team members, such as field managers and supervisors. The discussion wasn’t so much about finding or retaining these valuable team members. Their conversation centered on how to put them (including important new hires) into positions within the companies that best suited these employees’ unique personalities and abilities.
It’s not enough to have good managers in this stagnant, ultra-conservative environment, they said. You have to slot these valuable players (getting a clear picture of their strengths and weaknesses) into positions that best advance your company’s goals, as well as the employees’ career goals.
But, how do you determine this when you are operating in full-service mode, which may be akin to attempting to rotate the tires on your Ford F150 while you’re cranking down a freeway at 75 mph?
The short answer is that you do it when you can, but you do it, stressed several of the peer group members.
At a point in the conversation, talk veered into the pros and cons — mostly pros — of selecting one of several personality-testing services to (so to speak) put these valuable employees into the right seats on the company bus.
“Getting to know your staff is key to getting to where you want to go,” said one of the owners. He shared that he uses a system known as DiSC, to reveal the vital behavioral traits of valuable personnel. He said getting a better picture of a key players’ personality, helps him (and the employees in question) to determine the role where these individuals are most likely to excel and improve his company’s performance.
Two other peer group members reported using the same “behavior-assessment tool.” This revelation surprised me, as I had never heard of DiSC. One of the owners said he even uses it as part of his interviewing and hiring procedure in filling important positions within his company.
Curious about DiSC, I looked it up online and even took a free 10-minute personal DiSC assessment. Or, at least, I think I found and used the correct website as there are more than a few DiSC or DISC (capital “I”) websites.
Within 10 minutes of answering the dozen multiple-choice questions online, I received a free personality “style report” in my email, which informed me that I have “a blend of dominant and cautious traits.”
I don’t know what I expected to learn from the test, other than I expected a bit more insight into what makes me tick than that. I could have paid the $29 fee to take a more comprehensive self-appraisal, but, my curiosity somewhat sated, I decided to keep my credit card in my wallet.
Don’t take my frivolous foray into behavior testing as an indictment of DiSC or any other similar system, such as Wonderlic or Myers-Briggs. It’s not.
In fact, after rereading my notes, which detailed the landscape company owners’ experiences, I am convinced that personality and behavior testing systems are valuable tools that more owners should use in building their management teams.