A recent personality test for work has made me think hard about what I’ve become and how much I’ve changed in the past decade. (Spoiler – quite a lot!)
Last month, every member of my team was profiled by Insights Discovery, a psychometric tool based on the psychology of Carl Jung. It’s designed to help people learn about themselves and their relationships with others in the workplace.
Insights uses a four-colour model to help people understand their style and strengths. These are: ‘fiery’ red, which is action based; ‘sunshine’ yellow, which is about ideas and inspiration; ‘earth’ green, which is supportive and people-oriented; and ‘cool’ blue, which is focused and analytical.
Each person has a unique combination, based on their favoured and less-favoured traits, which helps to explain how and why people behave the way they do. These lead to a category depending on the combination of your colour preferences.
I came out as a ‘Reformer’ after showing a dominant preference for blue followed by red. Apparently, reformers are the rarest type in an average team, which is quietly satisfying. In a team setting, this plays out on a large chart like a giant Twister mat, which is very satisfying.
A swing from green
What came to mind as part of this exercise was a post from 2015, when I challenged a clickbait statement about timewasting by charting a single day of tasks.
That now seems to read like a timestamp of a very different personality.
The analytical ‘introverted’ blue is obviously there – I’m trying to use evidence to contradict a statement. But I also champion communication, cooperation, and good relationships – hallmarks of green.
Casting back further in time, that’s consistent with my early adulthood. I think back to a volunteer filming project I did with close friends in the early 2000s and the different personality types that emerged.
I valued the social time with friends as much as the filming activity. A small few were extremely focused on getting the task done. Several were almost oblivious to it. When it became tight for time, I would switch on, get organised, create lists, and help the few task-focused folks to keep things moving.
I was blue and green – a classic coordinator.
At times, I was an acutely sensitive human being. In most of my various endeavours, I made a small number of strong connections and kept them for many years. While I’ve never been a natural people-person, I valued people. My green score back then would have been very much higher.
Contrast that with 2022, where I scored the lowest for green out of our team of five. My green nature has gone, replaced by blue and red. I’m not in any denial about the fact that the person of seven years ago is not who I am any more.
Did Higher Education make or break me?
So, what’s changed?
There’s lots I could point to. For instance, a stable home life has calmed specific traits that would have naturally scored higher or spiked during more vulnerable years.
But my job has undoubtedly been the biggest factor. My roles since entering university marketing have shaped me just as heavily as I have shaped them.
University marketing is a tough environment, especially for recruitment universities that rely on rising student numbers for survival. It’s particularly intense in London, where the high density of competitors is unmatched elsewhere in the UK. It’s more ruthless than many would believe.
Equally, the nature of digital is tricky, because it’s hard to shake off the sense that everything that is possible today should be achieved today. There’s little time for patience.
Combine that with university bureaucracy, fastidiousness, decision by committee and bouts of downright crazy, and it’s not hard to see exactly why the green begins to shrink and the red begins to rise. It reached boiling point by 2019, when I ended up in hospital.
Now, I am a project manager but not a line manager. I’m siloed, with no team, on individual missions with seriously tight deadlines, and a lot of people whose priorities are not mine. Again, it stands to reason that the people-centred green would shrink and that blue and red would rise.
But there are upsides to this as well. If you want to progress through the mainstream roles in professional services, this requires analytical and strategic competencies that are more suited to those with some red or blue preferences.
So, I’ve either changed pre-emptively or I’ve responded to my environments. But I couldn’t do my job effectively if I were still the person from seven years ago.
I’m good at what I do, and the assessment suggests that the ‘Reformer’ type is key to that. I’m no longer reliant on work to make friends. Nor am I hired to be especially nice to people. I’m hired to fix problems.
But there is a sacrifice involved. I have gained, and I have lost. Have I been ‘made’ or ‘broken’? Maybe it’s a bit of each…
Green thoughts, green shades
There’s a danger of writing about this as if it’s entirely a choice. Sometimes, things change outside of our control, and we learn about ourselves from our reactions to them.
I’m sure I didn’t set out to change personalities, but the trajectory I took created a need to climb the ladder quickly. Last year, I hit a milestone by buying a flat in London. One year and an unforeseen economic crisis later, I already cannot take affordability for granted.
I’ve written a lot in the past about what it means to be green, a subject that was heavily influenced by my work on the seventeenth-century poet, Andrew Marvell. It’s bittersweet to add a new dimension to this list, just as my attention is drawn to its influence slipping away.