I'm OK, You're Not So Hot (Personality Types)


I work with teams - have done for some 20+ years. And often the very first call I get with regard to working with a team is from some stressed out manager saying - ‘Help, I have two people in my team who just do NOT get on'. What we traditionally call, a personality clash.

And so when I discovered the various personality profiles on the market, I suddenly had a tool I could use to show people why they were not getting on with someone, and how they could.
Personality typing is NOT about putting people in boxes. Every single human being is unique, there will never be another of any of us ever again. Not even our children are exact copies of us. They are bits of us for sure; bits of the other gender parent; a complex mix of where they were born (place); where in the family they were born; how they were brought up; what values they were taught; what religious and social teachings they were introduced to in their early years; where they were educated; what friends they chose in school, and a million other subtle influencers in-between. And each one of us, regardless of all of the above, also have that unique ingredient that is simply, us.

Hippocrates was one of the first people to start looking at differences and similarities between people.  Although he acknowledged that we were all singularly unique, he also noticed that people seemed to fall into four quite distinct behavioural categories - categories he called, Sanguine, Melancholic, Choleric and Phlegmatic.

These words no longer fit the vocabulary of today, so although the words that describe personality types have been updated, the basic underlying personality traits remain exactly the same as the ones he discovered. 

Some personality styles use colours to differentiate different personality types; others use the DISC categories, D = Dominance, I = Influencing, S = Steadiness and C = Compliance.

Yet all of the above, even with a more modern language, can still be a little confusing for people when they are first exposed to the styles. So when I discovered the ‘bird' personality types, created by a Dr. Peter Bender, suddenly I had found a way to describe the different personality types in a way that the people I worked with understood and could identify with, immediately.

I believed we actually have all four traits, but they are a bit like an inverted triangle - we have a dominant trait; a least trait and the other two traits fall somewhere in between - in other words we all have our personal strengths and weaknesses.

The Owl Personality: A quiet thinker with analytical traits: wants to know things, wants accuracy, likes lists, numbers & statistics. Loves detail, research, data and information. Dislikes change, taking risks, people who are sloppy in their work and who have poor time-keeping habits. Owls also dislike people who are showy and loud.  When change is happening, they want to know HOW to do what they are being asked to do.

Can get quite stressed during change processes, particularly if a lot of change happens over a sustained period. Under pressure Owls will avoid conflict. Owls are attracted to careers in banking, insurance, office management and even credit control.

The Dove Personality: Amiable, caring, sensitive. Great helpers, very personal, indirect communicators (tend to ask permission before they will do something).  Also don't like too much change, but if change has to happen, they want to know WHO needs to do what. Can become personally involved with other people's problems, sometimes to the detriment of their workload. Their whole reason for being is to build personal relationships. Very supportive people; great in customer service. Under great pressure can tend to do a ‘Poor me, it's not fair' type of reaction. Can be martyrs if they are not careful. Love careers to do with people. Nursing, counseling, teaching and being , nannies. Great in customer service and love dealing with customer complaints. They will love your customers to bits.

The Peacock Personality: Peacocks are the very loud, life-and-soul of the party types that Owls dislike so much. They are intuitive, impulsive, swift moving (often hard to find because they move about so much and so often). Love being the front person, love social situations, parties are their life-blood. Need appreciation, recognition and regular pats on the back. Like to inspire others - can be very charismatic. Not good with deadlines, detail or time-frames. Dislike meetings, particularly meetings that drill down into too much detail. Great at coming up with off-the-wall ideas, but don't ask them to implement the ideas, they are not great implementors. Want to know WHY. Great salepeople.

The Eagle Personality: Direct, action-orientated, can be quite forceful and dominanat. Often in positions of power. Wants to know WHEN. Needs to be in Control, needs deadlines and expects people to stick to them. A direct communicator - can tend to tell rather than ask. Not good with time-wasters or wooly thinkers. Particularly dislikes long-winded explanations and hates excuses.


List the four in the order you think you have them. In my own case I am a Dove - Eagle - Peacock - Owl. My strengths are working with people, my weakness is that I am no good with detail and paperwork.

Dr Bender suggests that ‘birds of a feather flock together', which from a recruitment perspective is not a great idea. We tend to recruit in our image and if we have a whole team or department where everyone thinks alike, then creativity is a very unlikely outcome.

However, personality clashes occur between the direct opposite personalities - Owls and Peacocks; Eagles and Doves. Yet if they can each get past their initial reaction to the opposite personality, they will see that they can actually learn from each other. Our opposite person has the skills and talents we tend not to have:

Owls are risk averse - Peacocks love change. Owls need to perhaps speed up a little, peacocks need to slow down a little. Eagles want instant action, Doves like to tread more slowly. Eagles need to soften up, Doves need to toughen up.

In the workplace, it is vital that co-workers understand the different personalities so they can learn to get along with each other.

Understanding customers and clients is also vital. Knowing more about personality types and the attributes that are common to those personalities will give each of us more insight into developing better skills and learning from each other.

Because I work with teams I always ask - what would happen in a team or a meeting of:

Four Owls? Nothing. This is analysis paralysis. Because Owls are naturally risk averse, before they would feel comfortable making a decision they would want more information; more research; more data. Sometimes we just don't have the time to do this. Sometimes 80% is good enough - and then we can adapt and refine as we go. This is anathema to an Owl.

Four Doves? Nothing. This is a chat fest. Everyone would be asking things like - ‘How is your Mum these days?' or ‘How is Charlie getting on in his new school?'. Yes it is great to be interested in our co-workers but at the end of the day, we are here to work!

Four Peacocks? Nothing. Peacocks hate meetings so they either wouldn't show up at all, or if by miracle of chance they did all show up, the first decision they would make is ‘We can do this at the pub!' And so they can actually.

Four Eagles? Blood. Eagles want to run things - four Eagles would probably spend the whole meeting wanting to thrust forward their own personal agendas.

Yet, what would happen if one of the personality types was missing:

No Owl? No information, no data, no research. The Eagle would want the information to know if we were on track/target/budget. The Dove is still sorting out someone's love life and the Peacock hasn't shown up yet.

No Dove? No peacekeeper, no glue, no care of the less assertive members of the team.

No Peacock? No jokes, no laughter and no off-the-wall ideas.

No Eagle? No-one to keep us on track, on target, on budget, on time.

The point is, we need all four types in our teams. Will they always get on? Of course not. I always say to my teams, that they don't actually have to like the people they work with. Which often comes as a surprise. My belief is we have to understand each other's strengths and skills and talents, and once we do that, eventually we WILL like our team mates. But liking won't come first. 

Spend some time appraising your co-workers, your bosses and your customers. Think about then people you get on with best (people like you) and the ones that you get on with least (your opposite personality).

Start to look at the people in your life; pay attention to their behaviors and actions and you will learn a lot about their personalities and your relationship with them.

Start to think about the world from THEIR point of view, and watch the reaction in your relationship with them change. You should see a marked change in how they react to you.

For example, if you are working with a manager or administrator who is an Eagle and who wants results, wants it done his/her way and then wants it yesterday, you can better plan your day to meet this person's wants and needs. If this is a customer, then you can go one step further and even anticipate those expectations and be successfully ahead of your competitor.

Large sales companies around the world spend thousands of dollars training their marketing and sales forces with personality profile training to aid their representatives in achieving greater sales and successes.

If you would like more information on personality profiling, please contact me.



Ann Andrews CSP specialises in working with high performing teams and showing managers how to deal with poor performance.

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